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Apr 7, 2017

Talking Depression on World Health Day

Across the world today, a growing health concern took center stage to drum up action against it. Depression affects a staggering number of persons and while it is an illness that many don’t want to talk about, the World Health Organization is bringing awareness to the condition in its campaign: Let’s talk depression. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Belize has averaged a suicide attempt every five days in the past five years, bringing the scary number to three hundred and eighty-two over half a decade. In 2016 alone, there were ninety-eight unsuccessful suicides. The local statistics also show that men die by suicide four times as often as females, even though there are two female attempts for every male attempt. In most of these cases, the individual is suffering from depression and or suicidal thoughts. A health forum by ministry officials to observe World Health Day today, tackles just that, the chronic illness of depression.

 

Marvin Manzanero

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services

“The reason why depression was chosen this year is because of the data that’s coming out. There is an estimated three hundred and fifty million people living with depression. It is now a leading cause of disability because it is not only a mental situation; there is emotional situation, family structures and work structures that are affected because of depression. And also because between 2005 and 2015, in a span of ten years, there was an eighteen percent increase in the number of cases, making it one of the fastest growing affections globally.”

 

In Belize alone, there are only fifteen hundred diagnosed persons living with depression. But even with those glaring statistics, the illness is under-diagnosed and undertreated because people are not seeking adequate medical assistance. The theme for this year is “Let’s Talk Depression.” According to Nurse Eleanor Bennett it is a challenge to treat depression because it doesn’t have a typical presentation to nonprofessionals.

 

Eleanor Bennett

Nurse Eleanor Bennett, Mental Health Nursing Administrator

“It has many presentations; it is not just the person that…the textbook presentation where you would image that somebody who is depressed is sitting in the corner crying all the time. It’s not just that, but it is person who goes to our clinic over and over for back pain and belly aches or stomach problems and can’t sleep. Or it might be the person who is always a little too happy as if they are trying to hide what they are actually feeling; like they are trying very hard for people to see that they are happy. Or it could be the person who says nothing, who is always quiet, who goes about their work, who just doesn’t interact.”

 

Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“We have to acknowledge that psychiatrists are not something that we have. I don’t think we have a Belizean psychiatrist right now; however we do have two persons on study leave, studying psychiatry right now. They are due to return March of next year. So we are cognizant of the fact that we have human resources, but the other side to that is that in order for us to make a case to have more human resources, we have to have data. And as you rightly said the numbers don’t seem to be what the global picture is. So hopefully, people can start accessing our services.”

 

Depression doesn’t have a face; it affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. While it should not be confused with sadness, depression can manifest itself as misplaced rage or lack of self control in extreme emotionally heightened states.

 

Nurse Eleanor Bennett

“Depression doesn’t have stages, but it has severities. For example; some people can be mildly depressed and when somebody is mildly depressed, it means that they do have all the symptoms of depression, however, it is not affecting their lives. It goes up to severe depression where the person’s function is affected significantly so that person cannot perform well at work; that person might even be thinking about suicide. If you are not the talking type, then you would be the expressing or doing type. And if you are suffering from depression which is a disease that causes some negative feelings; those feelings, if you are not taking care of them in the research way that works, they are going to come out elsewhere. And often times it comes out as aggression, it comes out as withdrawal and these things destroy your social relationships. So you are not as responsive to your children, you are not as responsive to your spouse.”

 

The intention is to engage the public and listen, in an effort to break the stigma against those who suffer from depression.

 

Nurse Eleanor Bennett

“There are three approaches that work and the first one is this, talking about it—getting people the right information, getting them aware of what it is, what to look for. And the one that works the most is to have people who have experienced depression talk about it.”

 

Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“It says let’s talk, but I think the other side of that equation should be let’s listen because people out there might actually be seeing things that we taking for granted because we then to stigmatize depression, particularly in men I think it is under-diagnosed. Men don’t have health seeking behaviors, they don’t go to health facilities because they are supposed to man-up to the situation.”

 

In Belize, there is a regionally recognized community mental health structure in place including psychiatric nurse practitioners available at various community hospitals across the country. Duane Moody for News Five.

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