Manila—The World Health Organization led the global observance of World Health Day by singling out depression, which it said is the leading contributor to disability worldwide, as close to 300 million people globally are living in depression but less than half are receiving treatment because of fear arising from stigma.
Depression is a common problem that can happen to anybody, and people who are depressed tend to have unrealistic negative opinions about themselves, their life and their future, the global health body said.
Dr. Shin Young-soo, regional director of the WHO Western Pacific Region, said “depression is more than just feeling sad or down: Depression is characterized by persistent feelings – not only of sadness, but also of loss of interest or pleasure, guilt or low self-esteem.” The WHO information material said it is “like a day that never ends” because it can go on and take its toll on a relationships, productivity and quality of life. For people with severe depression, it can end in suicide.
In its headquarters in Manila, the WHO regional office held a forum on the mental health problem last month as a shout-out to the world that depression and other mental health disorders can be treated by talking about it, bringing it out of the shadows and into the light of compassion, understanding and treatment.
Using the campaign slogan “Let’s Talk,” it presented Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa, a Filipino beauty queen, as its health advocate who shared her experience battling depression when she was younger. “I’m alive but I feel dead,” was how she described it.
More prominent people have come out to talk about being down or in a chaotic psychological situation, such as Prince Harry of England, who has come out openly about battling grief and suffering mental health problems after his mother Princess Diana died in 1997 when he was only 12 years old.
As I was writing this, Lady Gaga chatted with Prince Harry’s older brother, Prince William, about their experiences with mental health issues and how to seek help and overcome them. Their chat was broadcast live worldwide.
It was believed that author Ian McEwan’s novel “Black Dogs” came from the name that Winston Churchill once bestowed on his depression. I wonder how Churchill, one of the most recognized statesmen in the world, handled his depression. I wonder more about him, a powerful and influential politician, being depressed.
A friend of mine calls his depression “crimson tiger.” Another one calls hers the “ghost rider.” But one thing that helps people with depression, as in the case of my friends, is to talk about it or call it fancy names even if the names hide a certain darkness.
To let depression go away even it doesn’t, people suffering from this condition play mood elevating music, do exercises like yoga or walking, or read. But, as the WHO recommends, talking about it would be best. It does not take a beauty queen, a giant in the music business or two royal siblings to let mental health be part of helpful and healthy discussions.
Diana Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila. She wrote for the Manila Chronicle, Today, Business Mirror and Inter Press Service. She also worked as a media consultant for the Commission on Population and the Asian Development Bank.