Overcoming the Stigma of Depression: Let’s Talk

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago,  Depression, one of the leading causes of disability, affects nearly 50 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean.  This disease is treatable, yet six out of every ten people who have depression do not seek or do not receive the treatment they need.

“This disease is a major public health problem that affects us all.  It does not discriminate.  It impacts people of all ages, from all walks of life,” stated Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales in observance of World Health Day.   The CARPHA Director went on to say “despite being so common and because of the stigma attached, people affected may hide it, not seek treatment or not talk about it.”

“Depression: let’s talk.” is the theme chosen for this year for World Health Day.  It calls attention to this serious public health concern and advocates for recognising and addressing the disease.  The goal is for more people with depression, everywhere in the world, to both seek and get help.

Strong links between depression and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and obesity have been identified. Mental and neurological disorders in the elderly, such as Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias, and depression, contribute to the burden of NCDs.  Mental disorders can also contribute to unintentional and intentional injury.   Patients who are depressed are less likely to take their medicines, and persons with chronic NCDs and disability are more likely to be depressed.

Dr. Hospedales said “Depression is an important risk factor for suicide, which claims the lives of many Caribbean people, including our young ones every year.  There are effective strategies and treatments for preventing depression, and ways to alleviate the suffering it causes. This includes talking therapies or antidepressant medication or a combination of both. Addressing stigma and discrimination are also important strategies in programs for mental health and depression.”

Health professionals are reminded of their duty of care to all persons, whether they have physical and/or mental issues.  To persons who may be experiencing depression, remember with the right help you can get better.  CARPHA urges you to talk with someone you trust about your feelings or seek professional help.

World Health Day, celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO), provides a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world.