Recent WHO report says depression is leading cause of disability worldwide

Angela Kang

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization.

The report estimates that more than 300 million people live with depression and that diagnoses have increased over 18 percent over the past decade. WHO defines depression as a “mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities,” among other symptoms.

“These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to rethink their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a press release.

Shekhar Saxena, WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse director, said in a press release that those with depression have a high risk of substance abuse and suicide, and the disorder is strongly linked to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Collyn Burke, a journalism freshman with depression, said the disorder affects her academic and social life.

“I think most people assume that depression is just being sad all the time, but it’s not,” Burke said. “Everything becomes more of a struggle to do.”

According to the WHO press release, every dollar invested in mental health treatment yields about $4 in a person’s health and ability to work. Without treatment, depression can impede productivity and relationships, Burke said.

“It’s like trying to run a race through cement,” she said. “You want to keep going, but sometimes you just can’t.”

According to Katy Redd, the assistant director for Prevention and Outreach at the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, 63 percent of student request services from the CMHC. Redd added that there are many resources available to students besides counseling, such as a Mind Body Lab and group counseling that address issues pertinent to students, such as developing coping skills for failure.

“It’s powerful to know that you’re not alone and that there are resources,” Redd said. “When we start sharing stories, we realize we are more alike than we are different.”