Depression: major health problem worldwide by 2020

PENAMPANG: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression will be one of the largest health problems worldwide by 2020, and health surveys have shown that mental disorders occur in about one in five individuals or 20 per cent of the world population each year.

A member of the Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council of the Health Ministry, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, disclosed that results of the third National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2006 showed that more people were suffering from mental health problems and they needed to come forward to seek treatment.

“The National Health Morbidity Survey (NHMS) Malaysia which was carried out in 2006, revealed that 11.2 percent of the adult population has some form of mental health problems as compared to 10.6 per cent in 1996 while among children and adolescents, it was 20.3 per cent as compared to 13 per cent in 1996.

“The survey also showed that 19.5 per cent of the older age group (70 to 74 years) and 14.4 per cent of the youngest (between 16 and 19 years) were also more prone to having mental health problems than the rest of the age group,” he said.

According to Lee, the National Suicide Registry Malaysia had reported the number of suicide cases increasing, with 113 cases in 2007 and 290 cases in 2008.

It was also reported that one of the main contributing factors was life events prior to the suicide such as divorce, death of loved ones, loss of employment and retrenchment among others, he said, adding that it was therefore crucial that the community be given coping skills to handle life events as all the conditions stated may lead to depression and subsequently, suicidal attempt or suicide.

Speaking to reporters after a briefing on the Health Ministry’s project named “Program Minda Sihat Menangani Stress” (Healthy Mind Program), at SMK St Michael here yesterday, Lee stressed that no country or person was immune to mental health problems and their impact in psychological, social and economic terms was high.

“Mental health should no longer be ignored in our community; on the contrary, it should be given adequate attention in relation to other health problems. We need to do more to promote mental health in the country as mental health promotion improves the quality of life,” he said, adding that mental health promotion activities are interventions designed to enable people to improve and to maintain optimal mental health, well-being and social functioning.

Another issue of great significance, Lee pointed out was that people with mental health problems or mental disorders must come forward to seek consultation or treatment and they must not shy away fearing that they would be stigmatized, isolated or ostracized from society.

“We have to take drastic steps to de-stigmatize mental disorders and it is also equally important for Malaysians not to have skewed or biased perception against those who are mentally ill,” he said, adding that the promotion of mental health encompassed the government, employers, community and family units,” he said.

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