Friday, November 23, 2007

Depression: An Overlooked Public Health Crisis?

From famed artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar Allan Poe to a steadily rising part of the general public, should we adopt a pro-active rather than a reactive response in dealing with this mental health crisis?

By: Vanessa Uy

The inevitability for urgent concern might be a long time coming but a World Health Organization (WHO) study shows that mental health issues like depression is largely ignored by healthcare providers around the world. A WHO report aired in November 13, 2007 shows depression had already reached parity with other “preventable” public health concerns like coronary heart disease and even AIDS. The existing lack of urgency when it comes to dealing with mental health problems like depression is largely due to the pre-existing stigma attached to most mental health disorders in addition to general mistrust of the general public on the science of psychology.

Depression by itself is generally harmless, since most of us live in the Northern Hemisphere and when winter season comes the daylight hours gets shorter and shorter. This gives rise to a melancholic feeling commonly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The more serious form of depression that could lead to suicides are usually a product of manic – depressive disorder also known by its modern more politically correct name of bipolar disorder. Sufferers of bipolar disorder usually resort to suicide during the depressive part of their mental illness. While in their manic state, the sufferer could be manifesting his or her creative genius in various art forms like music, literature, and other creative outlets in ways far beyond the abilities of “normal” people.

With the aid of the latest existing mental health diagnostic tools like the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, referred to as the DSM-IV, had made analyzing mental illness across cultures much more easier and accurate. The latest WHO report also shows that mainland China probably has 100 million undiagnosed sufferers of depression that if left untreated could lead to suicide. Local studies have shown that rural parts of China has a much higher rates of suicide that urban areas due to increased isolation and hardship in day –to –day living.

Even though the basic facts in overcoming depression rest’s on the individual sufferer, to me, it still takes a skilled psychotherapist / counselor / social worker to bring back someone from the brink. Many of us –including me – had been taking for granted that every time we suffer from “the blues” we don’t wind up killing ourselves. As someone with above average creative skills, it always pays to keep close tabs with one’s selves. After all, you’ll know things are getting out of hand when you become your own worse enemy.

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