Millions suffering from depression in PH – DoH, WHO

Image courtesy of the World Health Organization-Philippines

MORE than 3.29 million people in the Philippines are living with depression and an almost equal number of individuals are suffering from anxiety.

This was learned Friday as the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization–Philippines (WHO-PH) calls on everyone – the public, private, and civil society sectors – to engage in a “serious national chat” using multi-media platforms to understand depression and other mental health problems burdening millions of Filipinos. 

The WHO-PH’s latest global statistics said that more than 300 million people are battling depression, or an increase of more than 18 percent during the period 2005-2015. 

In the Philippines alone, it is estimated that 3.29 million people are living with depression and that 3.07 million are be living with anxiety. Depression is a leading factor in suicide. 

Echoing the WHO declaration on World Health Day 2017 that “depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell Ubial and Dr.Gundo Weiler, WHO representative in the Philippines, agreed that “it is urgent and imperative that new approaches to engage every Filipino in a serious national chat on depression must lead to more openness in discussing depression, demystification of depression, and eventually the de-stigmatization of depression and other mental health issues.” 

Sec. Ubial noted that in the Philippines “depression must be acknowledged as the quiet crawling and menacing killer, which debilitates and traps millions of Filipinos daily in an invisible but merciless web of desperate existence.” 

“The first and important step toward understanding depression is encouraging discussion between two persons or among people within a group, in a safe and trusting environment, about the pangs and pain of depression,” she said. 

Ubial stressed that “In view of this, homes, schools, and offices are key sites in starting a serious national chat in understanding depression and other mental health issues.” 

“With proper, adequate health support or treatment, people with depression and other mental health problems can become productive members of our society. We must act now to destroy decisively this web of deadly despair and discomfort,” Ubial said. 

“On top of stigma and prejudice surrounding depression, we must acknowledge and act on the lack or inadequate funding in treating people with depression and other mental health problems,” she added.

For its part, the WHO-PH said that among the factors hampering people with mental health issues to seek and access needed treatment are the lack of support for people with mental disorders and the fear of stigma. 

“The World Health Day 2017 campaign is about depression, an illness that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. The overall goal of the campaign is that more people with depression, in all countries, seek and get help,” Weiler said. 

Moreover, Weier said “Now is the time to initiate a serious national chat in our own small circles of friends and colleagues to better grasp what is depression. Talking about depression is the first single biggest step toward its treatment, management, recovery, and the subsequent and substantial improvement of the quality of daily life of many people around us struggling with depression and other mental health issues.”

He also appealed that “we must do everything possible to decisively turn the tide and end the cycle that has allowed depression to evolve into a silent epidemic and unseen killer that now ranks as among the top causes of serious disability and serious illnesses.” 

As the highlight of the Philippine participation in the World Health Day 2017, the WHO-PH sponsored the staging by Twin Bill Theater of the award-winning play “Suicide, Inc.” on April 7 at the St. Paul University – Manila campus, with students and young adolescents as the primary target audience of the information and education activity via stage play. 

Directed by Steven Conde, the cast for the special performance sponsored by the WHO-PH were: Mako Alonso, Raymund Concepcion, Bibo Reyes, Edrei Tan, and Chino Veguillas. 

The audience for the special staging of “Suicide, Inc.” were led by Ubial, Weiler, officials of the St. Paul University – Manila and their students, who were joined by students from academic institutions in Manila.

“Suicide, Inc.” is a 2010 tragicomedy by celebrated off-Broadway playwright Andrew Hinderaker, with the plot revolving around Legacy Letters, a company that makes money by drafting or editing suicide notes.          

The Twin Bill Theater production of “Suicide, Inc.,” a play tackling sensitive, if not taboo, issues is aimed at encouraging more people to talk about depression and mental health. 

The production is the WHO-Philippines, DOH, and Twin Bill Theater’s contribution to the efforts to get more Filipinos to be more open and honest in discussing mental health concerns such as depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and other mental health issues.

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