80% of people living with depression not diagnosed or treated

living with depression, suicide
© Fizkes

The Lancet finds that 80-90% of people living with depression in low-and-middle-income countries are not diagnosed or treated

The COVID pandemic created more challenges for global mental health, as people around the world experienced increased financial pressures and devastation from the virus. For many people, the pressure was enough to worsen existing mental health issues.

Depression continues to bring stigma

Depression, one of the most prominent mental health issues, continues to face stigma across the globe. While 5% of global adults actually live with depression, symptoms are still misunderstood or dismissed in some communities – common misconceptions are that depression is simply sadness, a sign of weakness, or restricted to certain cultural groups. This can lead to individuals never getting the support they really need.

In this study, it was found that 80-90% of adults in low-and-middle-income countries are living with depression, without diagnosis or treatment.

“No two individuals share the exact life story and constitution, which ultimately leads to a unique experience of depression and different needs for help, support, and treatment”, said Commission Co-Chair Professor Vikram Patel from Harvard Medical School in the USA.

“Similar to cancer care, the staged approach looks at depression along a continuum—from wellness, to temporary distress, to an actual depressive disorder—and provides a framework for recommending proportional interventions from the earliest point in the illness.”

Depression can lead, tragically, to suicide. Studies indicate that 70%-80% of people who die by suicide in high-income countries, and around half of those in low- and middle-income countries, suffer from mental illness, of which depression is the most common cause.

Depression costs US$1 trillion a year to global economy

While depression has direct physical effects on health, it also has a less well-understood impact on individuals, families, communities and countries. These can be social and economic, with people unable to reach out to their loved ones and participate in activities they normally would have enjoyed.

Even before the pandemic, the loss in economic productivity linked to depression cost the global economy an estimated US$1 trillion a year.

Co-author Dr Charles Reynolds from the University of Pittsburgh, USA said: “We must empower people with experience of depression together with families, practitioners, policymakers and civil society to address the tsunami of unmet need—through sharing their experiences to reduce stigma, supporting others with information about the condition and possibilities for help, and advocating for greater resources for evidence-based approaches.”

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