Depression Now Leading Cause of Global Health Disability

The World Health Organisation states that depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability globally.

There has been a massive increase in the number of people who report symptoms of depression, leading the World Health Organisation to draw this conclusion.

Previously, respiratory disease was considered to be the largest world health difficulty.

But the latest figures suggest that over 300 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with depression.

This represents an increase of approximately 20% over the last 10 years.

Responding to the figures, the World Health Organisation suggested that effective treatment for the condition must be considered a healthcare priority.

WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, believes that the human and economic cost of depression cannot be understated.

“These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves.”

While Dr Skekhar Saxena of the WHO suggested that a lack of understanding and knowledge of the debilitating condition can prevent treatment from being administered effectively.

“For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery,” Saxena commented.

The World Health Organisation professionals were speaking ahead of the launch of their “Let’s Talk” campaign.

While it is generally believed that treating depression in newly industrialised and third world countries can be problematical, researchers also suggest that even high income countries failed to treat the disease effectively.

For example, nearly 50% of people with depression do not receive treatment, while drugs prescribed are often ineffective.

Only 3% of government health budgets are actually invested in mental health, with this figure increasing slightly to 5% in the developed world.

Yes the World Health Organisation believes that investing in mental health results makes economic sense, suggesting that for every dollar invested in treating depression and anxiety there is a $4 return in better health and ability to work.

The situation regarding mental health in Britain is already well documented, with a group of leading bodies who represent psychologist, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst and counsellors having recently written an open letter published in The Independent newspaper.

In the letter, it is suggested that the benefits system often sanctions people unfairly who are suffering from mental health problems.

The authors of the letter believe that stringent action must be taken in order to acknowledge the problems caused by mental health difficulties.

“Suspending the sanctions system alone is not enough. We believe the Government also has to change its focus from making unemployment less attractive, to making employment more attractive – which means a wholesale review of the back to work system. We want to see a range of policy changes to promote mental health and wellbeing. These include increased mental health awareness training for job centre staff – and reform of the work capability assessment (WCA), which may be psychologically damaging, and lacks clear evidence of reliability or effectiveness.”

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Study Indicates that Depression Harms Body as Well as Mind

A new study has suggested that depression is a condition which affects the body as well as the mind.

The illness causes an imbalance in the way that the body deals with harmful molecules, according to research conducted by an international team of scientists.

The disorder causes a change of the oxidative stress, which is an imbalance in the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralise them with antioxidants.

It is therefore believed by the proponents of the study that medical science should treat depression as a physical as well as mental disorder.

Researchers led by a team at the University of Granada in Spain carried out a meta-analysis of 29 previous studies involving 3,961 people.

And the evidence was published in the ‘Journal of Clinical Psychiatry’.

The study suggested that patients with depression who underwent treatment saw imbalances in oxidative stress parameters restored, and saw a reduction in antioxidant substances in their blood reach normal levels.

Brian Dow, Director of External Affairs of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, suggested that the new research could play a fundamental role in a holistic understanding of the link between physical and mental health.

“It has always been apparent that physical and mental health are closely related, if you have a chronic physical health condition your mental health can suffer. Similarly, if you have a mental illness often your physical health can be at risk. At present people with severe mental illness are dying 20 years earlier than the general population.”

Dow went on to criticise the way that the health system deals with mental health issues currently.

“Yet too often our health system often treats these totally separately. As our understanding of the science improves so too should our services. One cannot be separated from the other, physical and mental health services should be working together to ensure people receive all the treatment and support they need.”

Antonis Kousoulis, the Mental Health Foundation’s Assistant Director for Development Programmes, suggested that the study represented an important body of evidence, but couldn’t be cited as a causal link at present.

“Whilst several studies have established a link between oxidative stress and mental health problems, the causal relationship has not yet been fully determined. This is why meta-analyses, like the paper published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, are important sources of evidence.”

Kousoulis outlined some of the weaknesses of the study, and indicated where further research is essential.

“We haven’t fully explained the relationship between depression and physical conditions like cancer, even though we know that up to 1 in 4 people with cancer have clinical depression. Interconnected system imbalances, such as the one that emerges in the results of this research, could go a long way towards explaining some of these associations”.

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Virtual Therapy to Play Major Role in Treating Depression

Research has found a unique new form of therapy which could help treat children suffering from depression.

This unique scientific experiment involves embodying individuals in a virtual reality avatar.

And scientists are already hopeful that it could provide a major assistance in treating mental illnesses and psychological conditions.

Patients wear a headset that projects a life-sized image, firstly of an adult and then of a child.

The research has been conducted as part of an ongoing study at University College London.

The university, which is working in collaboration with ICREA-University of Barcelona, has suspected for several years that virtual therapy could help with mental health conditions.

It has already been tested on patients with mental health problems, and it is hoped in the long run that it will be available both in public and private healthcare.

And the credibility of the scientific research has been elevated by the fact that it has already been published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open.

The study involved 15 people who are currently in the NHS system suffering from depression being subjected to the avatar experience.

As virtual reality becomes more sophisticated, it is also hoped that this system could become more advanced in the future.

At present, patients put on a physical headset which projects an adult version of themselves into a virtual reality mirror.

But eventually this relatively crude interface may be replaced by some sort of direct connection to an avatar.

Lead author Prof Chris Brewin was Enthusiastic about the results of the experiment, and described the experience as very powerful for participants.

In particular, the levels of success experienced where surprisingly encouraging.

Nearly two-thirds of the patients involved in the trial reported reduced levels of depression within one month after the research to place.

Brewin commented that the new technique offers huge potential.

“People who struggle with anxiety and depression can be excessively self-critical when things go wrong in their lives. In this study, by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion. The aim was to teach patients to be more compassionate towards themselves and less self-critical.”

Co-author Prof Mel Slater added: “We now hope to develop the technique further to conduct a larger controlled trial, so that we can confidently determine any clinical benefit.”

One in four people experience mental health problems every year in Britain.

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Australian Government Commissions Ketamine Depression Trial

A new study in Australia will test the legitimacy of ketamine as a drug to treat depression.

The substance is more readily associated with recreational drug use, and is also utilised as a horse tranquiliser.

Recent research has suggested that the drug could act as an effective anti-depressant.

In order to investigate the matter further, the University of New South Wales will be conducting a unique study into the matter.

The academic institution has received a $2 million grant from the Australian National Health and Medical Research council in order to explore and trial the use of the drug.

This research will get underway next April.

200 patients will participate in the initial clinical trials, with ketamine being compared against an active placebo.

Professor Colleen Loo of the Black Dog Institute is leading the University of New South Wales study, and reflected on the fact that the safety of the substance is a primary focus of this trial.

“We need to properly test if we can use ketamine as a treatment over a whole course of multiple doses,” Loo reflected.

At present, ketamine is only available in Australia as a prescription anaesthetic.

It has also been more commonly used by revellers due to its hallucinogenic properties.

Yet despite the fact that ketamine has never been associated with treatment for depression, it is now thought that it could serve a legitimate role in this field of medicine.

It has already been demonstrated in a related study that the drug can achieve good short-term results for treating depression.

And with this in mind, the research in Australia will focus on whether it can possibly be utilised as a long-term aid against the debilitating mental condition.

Professor Loo outlined the importance of understanding the longer term potential of ketamine as a depression treatment.

“You want to have a treatment that’s going to bring you out of depression and keep you well. What we need to do in taking the next step is look at whether giving people repeated doses can actually lead to a longer-lasting improvement, and this will be, as far as I know, the largest trial in the world of this type, looking at this,” Loo stated.

The grant serves as part of a $630 million investment package from the Australian federal government for more than 800 health and prevention disease projects across the country.

It is estimated that 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health condition at some point during their lives.

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Suicide Rate in Scotland Declines in New Figures

New figures published indicate that the suicide rate in Scotland has declined significantly over the last decade.

The Scottish suicide rate reduced by 17.8 percent between the periods 2000-2004 and 2010-2014, according to statistics published by SD Scotland and National Record of Scotland.

There was also a fall over the last twelve months, with 696 people having committed suicide in 2014, compared with 795 in 2013.

It is also noteworthy that the figures were even more historically significant once the new accounting system is taken into consideration.

National Records of Scotland has recently changed the way that suicides are recorded.

Under the old system, the number of suicides in 2014 would in fact be the lowest recorded since 1977.

The decline in suicides in Scotland could be attributed to numerous measures put in place by the authorities.

It is particularly notable that this statistic is decreasing at a time of economic challenges for many people; usually an indicator of high suicide rates.

Measures taken in order to combat suicide in Scotland have included the establishment of a Scottish Suicide Information Database, extensive training in suicide awareness among NHS frontline workers, the recruitment of Choose Life Co-ordinators to the majority of Scottish local authorities, and a raft of campaigns intended to raise awareness of the issue nationally.

These initiatives collectively are part of the overall three-year Suicide Prevention Strategy that was put in place by the Scottish government in 2013.

Speaking on the issue, Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, was cautiously optimistic about the figures.

“Any suicide is a tragedy, but the reduction of 17.8 per cent represents a particularly welcome development. This would not have been possible without the dedication of the professionals who work in this often challenging field,” Hepburn stated.

“We know that suicide rates are strongly related to deprivation levels, I am pleased to see that this inequality has decreased in recent years,” Hepburn continued.

Alana Atkinson, Lead for the National Programme for Suicide Prevention at NHS Health Scotland was encouraged by “the continuing declining trend in suicides in Scotland” and particularly welcomed the fact that “the inequalities in suicide rates associated with deprivation have decreased in both absolute and relative terms for males, and in absolute terms for females.”

Further suicide statistics for Scotland can be viewed at

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