The depression is now a disease that does not look at anyone, indiscriminately hitting anyone. It does not matter whether the person has a good job and education, or an economic possibility appropriate to his standard of living. And the worrying fact is that it is increasingly growing.
Just as the age of suicides is lowering, children begin to manifest these problems at a very young age, and then continue into adulthood, reaching the elderly, in whom depression can manifest itself as senile dementia.
Mental and neurological diseases are, in fact, on the rise, as is the use of substances. The ranking of problems related to global mental health is depression is in the first place, which knows no socioeconomic distinctions because it affects everyone equally. Then there is a lowering of the age at which these disorders occur, along with the age of suicides.
These numbers will explode with every passing day, especially for those of the depressive and anxious type. The others, the more chronic ones, are somehow relatively stable. In particular, the increase is observed in young people between 10 and 24 years old and in the elderly, social categories in which there can be significant life changes.
Let’s try together to give ourselves some answers starting from the numbers, passing from the definitions, and concluding with a look at future possibilities.
Four hundred fifty million people in the world are suffering from neurological, psychiatric, or behavioral disorders, many never diagnosed, other estimates speak of 900 million.
The fate of mental disorders is to overcome, by incidence, cardiovascular diseases, to which the priority is currently attributed.
In particular, in the world, 10-20% of children and adolescents suffer from mental disorders, and neuropsychiatric conditions are currently the primary cause of disability in young people in all WHO Regions. Half of all mental illness begins at age 14, experts say, and three-quarters begin by age 25.
If left untreated, these conditions can heavily affect young people’s development and their ability to live fulfilling and productive lives as adults.
About 300 million people in the earth suffer from depression, 60 million from bipolar affective disorder, and 23 million from schizophrenia. Eight hundred thousand people decease every year from suicide in the world, a suicide that for children between 15 and 29 years old represents the second cause of death in the world.
The composition of the postcard in light of these numbers is full of urgency and necessity. It is a serious alarm to be managed with equal seriousness, with strategies aimed at better understanding the causes of the birth, evolution, and increase of these disorders, in order to develop practical solutions that reverse these trends.
What are the mental illnesses?
There are dozens of different types of mental illness, from the most common disorders affecting tens of millions of people, such as anxiety and depression, to rarer disorders such as paraphilia (sexual obsession) and trichotillomania (the obsessive desire to pull out hair)
Mental illness does not mean sadness, madness, or anger (although it may include these manifestations in some of its forms), and it is not binary or exclusive but complex and universal.
We must imagine it as a spectrum, a continuum on which we all rest. At one end is mental health, in which we all feel good, feeling fulfilled and comfortable? In the central area, we can see people surviving and struggling with something. At the opposite end are the various degrees of mental disorder. Most of us move from side to side along this line throughout our lives.
Why are mental illnesses so widespread?
First of all, a great responsibility must be attributed to the contradictory inverse proportionality between the number of subjects with mental disorders, which is growing, and the number of loans dedicated to them, which is decreasing.
There is a substantial gap between subjects who access and are followed in Mental Health Departments and subjects who, according to estimates, are affected by Mental Disorders, with a difference of about 75% of affected population that remain outside.
Many of these people are followed by general practitioners, by other health services such as consultants, for example, or by specialists / private structures. It is, unfortunately, an indication of a lack of communication between the different areas, various sectors, and the other specialties of the care system.
It is still challenging to create a team of people, structures, and professionals who know – consistent with their skills and duties – to manage, direct, and treat the patient with a mental disorder. Again, this evidences suggest other critical issues of both a diagnostic, economic, and social nature.
Many people do not access competent care services because, in the face of a lack of diagnosis, they are not addressed. Some people do not seek help due to an inadequate assistance offer. Moreover, many do not turn to health facilities because they are victims of a still widespread and heavy stigma.
As in a vicious circle in which the incipit always coincides with the conclusion and they feed each other, and less well subjects with mental disorders are diagnosed and treated, the higher the number of affected subjects over time.
Alongside this, numerous determinants of mental health must be continuously considered in crisis in recent years and which causes the number of subjects with mental health problems to increase. It includes the excessive and increasingly precocious use of drugs, conditions of demotion, hardships, violence, and mistreatment, the economic and social consequences of the financial crisis, excessive workloads, and increased stress.
What Causes Mental Illness?
The answer is complicated, as there is rarely a single cause.
Psychiatrists talk about a combination of risk factors that could, but only in some cases, make the situation worse—starting with genetics.
What we inherit is a particular vulnerability or predisposition, and if you add other things to those things, then people are more likely to suffer from mental problems.
It is a polygenic system, there are many genes involved, we know which genes a person inherits, but this does not necessarily mean that a certain mental disorder will be triggered.
Last year, for example, scientists identified 44 variants of a gene that increase the risk of depression.
Then there are the experiences that aggravate the risk factor, such as abuse, trauma, stress, domestic violence, difficult childhood, bullying, conflict, social isolation, or substance abuse (which can be both cause and consequence). But it’s not an exact science.
One of the attributes of mental illness is that the sum of two risk factors does not automatically produce a disorder.
What to do?
Enhance, promote, and protect Mental Health. There are always too few opportunities for discussion, at school, in universities, on talk shows, and in political debates. Mental Health requires a space that is not yet granted to it, and that no one can earn unless we break the walls of the stigma or superficiality with which these issues are still often touched.
Countries are committed to an action plan promoted by the WHO, which aims for 2020 to promote mental well-being, prevent mental disorders, offer treatment, increase recovery opportunities, promote human rights and reduce mortality, morbidity, and disability in people with mental illnesses. It does so by concretely setting the following objectives:
- Strengthen leadership and governance in mental health
- Provide responsive, integrated, and comprehensive mental health and social support services at the territorial level
- Implement mental health promotion and prevention strategies
- Strengthen information systems, scientific evidence, and research for mental health
In concert, the commitment of everyone to raise awareness of this problem is necessary. Mental Health concerns us all, the horizon is as big as it is tiring, but it’s a big challenge if none of us back down.