April 7: World Health Day: Depression: talking to psychologists can help!
2 Apr 2017
This year’s World Health Day is dedicated to the fight against depression, a disorder present in more 350 million people worldwide according to WHO data. EFPA recognizes the need to intervene as early as possible in the developmental process of depression.
This year’s World Health Day is dedicated to the fight against depression, a disorder present in more 350 million people worldwide according to WHO data. WHO urges everyone to talk about their depressive thoughts and emotions.
The European Federation of Psychologist’ Associations (EFPA) recognizes the need to intervene as early as possible in the developmental process of depression.
'Over the years, psychological research has provided us with many insights that psychologists use today to effectively help people overcome their depressive states, however accessibility to psychological care remains difficult across Europe,' explains Koen Lowet, clinical psychologist and member of EFPA Standing Committee of Psychology and Health.
WHO forecasts that the prevalence of depression, as one of the more prominent mental illnesses will increase and therefore also the impact on our health systems. In Europe, depression is estimated to be associated to costs that amount to 136.3 billion euros (data from 2007) of which 1/3 refers to health systems expenditures.
Therefore, this year’s edition of World Health Day is dedicated to the fight against depression as it poses one of the greatest health challenges for the coming years. “Psychologists play a crucial role in this fight,” says Koen Lowet. “By using knowledge gained out of psychological research, psychologist assist in the prevention, detection and treatment of depression around the world.”
The role of psychologists is probably known best in their classic, more psychotherapeutic treatments of depression. Psychotherapy has proven so successful that it has become the preferred treatment of choice in most clinical guidelines for mild and moderate depression.
But Lowet also draws attention to much more effective ways of psychological intervention such as prevention. “Prevention of depression by modifying behavioural strategies, teaching good coping strategies in how to deal with negative life events or providing clear education on what’s happening when people are feeling depressed are often highly effective measures that psychologists can do in a limited number of sessions.'
Unfortunately, access to psychological care is not always easy in most European countries, despite these promising evolutions. Lowet confirms: “Most European countries continue to invest more in medical treatments rather than in psychological services even worse for preventive programs. If we want to meet the challenges of tomorrow, we need to shift our focus and invest more in prevention of depression as well as the accessibility of psychological services and psychological research.”
Julia Scharnhorst, clinical psychologist and expert in occupational mental health, stress management and resilience adds: 'In our knowledge-driven world mental resources and health become more valuable and more vulnerable. The goal is to increase personal resilience. Resilient persons are less likely to suffer from depressions or other mental disorders. Target groups for preventative measures are children and adolescents as well as adults. “Preventative interventions can reduce the incidence of new episodes of major depression disorder by about 25% and by as much as 50% when stepped-care formats are offered,” claims Scharnhorst. Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among those between the ages of 15 and 29.
But not only individuals should be addressed to increase their mental health. Psychologists also seek the underlying causes of depression and other mental disorders. Depressions are the result of a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors. One of the causes are the continuously rising levels of stress – especially at the workplace. Persons who have suffered distressing episodes in their life (e.g. loss of work, loss of loved ones, trauma) are more prone to develop a depression.
Depression itself can cause even higher levels of stress and dysfunction and so increase the severity of the disorder. This is a new challenge for society which needs the combined efforts of experts, politics and employers. 'The full use of evidence-based depression prevention strategies has yet to be realized. This gap between what is known to be effective and the implantation of those strategies still requires a lot of action and the strengthening of research and dissemination efforts,' Scharnhorst emphasizes.