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Laos marks World Health Day, focusing on depression prevention

The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation to Laos are marking World Health Day, which is observed annually on April 7.

The day provides a unique opportunity to mobilise action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world. The theme for the 2017 World Health Day is depression: #LetsTalk.

“Depression can affect anyone, people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries,” said Minister of Health Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong, speaking at an event to mark World Health Day.

According to new estimates released by the World Health Organisation, the number of people living with depression has increased by more than 18 percent between 2005 and 2015.

Depression is an illness characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities for at least two weeks.

People with depression normally have several of the following symptoms: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Suicide is a serious public health problem. Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, an estimate of 500 suicides per day. It is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29. However, older people are also at a higher risk of suicide.

Depression in older people is often overlooked and left untreated. It may be associated with physical conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic pain; difficult life events, such as losing a partner; and a reduced ability to do things due to injury, or financial difficulties that can lead to depression.

The United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015 adopted the promotion of mental health and well-being to the Sustainable Development Goal Agenda, within the health goals. This is in line with the WHO definition of health “where physical, mental and social well-being is assured”.

SDG 3.4 requests that countries “By 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.”

Dr Juliet Fleischl, WHO Representative to Laos, said depression can be prevented and treated. “Overcoming the stigma associated with depression and suicide can lead to more people getting help. Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression,” she added.

To date, only a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 28 countries reported having a national suicide prevention strategy. Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.

Health workers need to understand depression, how it can be prevented and treated. If you are living with someone with depression, make it clear that you want to help, listen without judgement, and offer support. You should encourage them to seek professional help when available by offering to accompany them to appointments. When medication is prescribed, remind them to take it as prescribed. Be patient; it usually takes a few weeks to feel better.

The support of family, friends and caregivers will facilitate recovery from depression. You can help those suffering from depression simply by talking or listening to them. Stay connected with your friends and family, keep up with activities that you have always enjoyed and exercise regularly if you can, even if it is just a short walk.

There is a lot that can be done to prevent and treat depression, with talking therapies and antidepressant medication or a combination of both. Seek advice from your health-care provider.

On World Health Day, the theme of Depression #LetsTalk reminds us that individuals, communities and societies play a critical role in suicide prevention. We need to change our attitudes and break down taboos, through depression, #LetsTalk.


By Times Reporters
(Latest Update April 7, 2017)

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