Depression and anxiety are linked to happiness and there’s plenty that can be done from a young age

In the last blog, I talked about the World Happiness Report 2013 and began to explore the links between mental health and happiness. I want to explore this in further detail here, to examine the issues which effect happiness in an individual’s life and the implications of positive mental health on these indicators. As I mentioned in the earlier post, and as the Happiness Report 2013 clarifies, mental illness is the “single biggest determinant of misery.” While the prevalence of the problems varies between countries, at any given time, around 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from some kind of mental illness. Among all the mental illnesses, depression and anxiety are most common—accounting for about a fifth of all disability globally. Naturally, this has an incredible effect on the output of individuals, societies, countries and globally! And as we’ve heard so many times before, people are not receiving treatment for these illnesses for which cost-effective treatments exist—not even in the richest of countries!

 

For depression and anxiety disorders, evidence-based treatments can have low or zero net cost, according to not only the latest Happiness Report, but a host of professionals working in the field. They can and should be made far more universally available. However, these are all post-illness measures and the majority of interventions have focused too heavily on tackling the issues surrounding mental ill health at a later stage in life, when illnesses have been brewing and developing for years.

 

But in order to successfully make the case for childhood intervention, a paradigm shift is required which would look to establish mental health as intrinsically linked to personal happiness and not just a medical illness. That is what the World Happiness Report seeks to do precisely, by pointing out that “schools and workplaces need to be much more mental health-conscious” and “directed to the improvement of happiness” in order to prevent mental illness and promote mental health.

Ifred blog photo

 

The importance of good mental health to individual well-being can be demonstrated, in fact, by reference to values, according to the World Happiness Report 2013, which sit “at the very heart of the human condition.” Here, the Report, for example, says that if the ultimate goal in life and the truest measure of well-being is happiness, it’s “hard if not impossible” to flourish and feel fulfilled in life when individuals are beset by health problems such as depression and anxiety. This couldn’t be truer. Further, an individual’s self-identity and ability to flourish are often influenced by their social surrounding, relationships and engagement with those around them, but with mental illness, these become increasing difficult to maintain and manage. Importantly, the other issue identified by the report is that once an individual loses the ability to manage thoughts, feelings and behavior, then happiness becomes a distant dream to them.

 

The focus then should be at promoting happiness in all spheres of life, at home, school, work, and, in effect, promote mental health too. This would mean fostering an environment, for example, where young people and young professionals would not be personally, professionally or socially pushed to be isolated, over-stressed, keep feelings bottled up and be accepted and nurtured to grow and develop on their strengths and manage their weaknesses.

 

Further, there is plenty of scientific evidence that links happiness (thus equating to the absence of mental illness) to healthy lifestyles, including getting plenty of exercise which releases endorphins – aka happy hormones – and eating right. Personally, meditation and yoga I believe are also great techniques which can be developed as a lifestyle to promote well-being overall. Teaching these kinds of lifestyle choices from a young age can also prove to be extremely fruitful in the long run to fight unhappiness and mental illness simultaneously. After all, while it’s necessary to further develop medical and social interventions – as is most popular today – to address mental illness, nipping the bud at the root would undoubtedly be the most effective approach!

 

Having said all of this, I am thrilled to say that iFred is already well on its way to adopting this model of intervention, through all of its work. From developing a positive image of depression globally, to educating children about the value of hope in schools, iFred’s work deserves not only praise on this account, but some serious up-scaling through global partnerships!.

 

A new article written by:

Jagannath Lamichhane

 

The Path to Happiness is Sound Mental Health

In July 2011 the UN General Assembly passed a historic resolution:  It invited member countries to measure the happiness of their people and to use this to help guide their public policies. Bhutan topped the first report published in 2012 as the ‘happiest’ country, in a shocking revelation. According to the report, “the word ‘happiness’ is not used lightly. Happiness is an aspiration of every human being, and can also be a measure of social progress.” It further goes on to take the example of the US to explain: “America’s founding fathers declared the inalienable right to pursue happiness. Yet are Americans, or citizens of other countries, happy? If they are not, what if anything can be done about it?”

Undoubtedly, this “happiness” discourse is intrinsically linked to the mental health of individuals, communities and countries. One has to wonder: Why are Mexico and Costa Rica “happier” than the US, even in the event of massive income, development and freedom deficits in the former countries? This then leads us to the idea that perhaps — just perhaps — happiness cannot be measured by wealth or external development, but rather by other factors like peace of mind, social cohesion, satisfaction, inclusion in the community and personal integrity: all factors associated with good mental health. Unsurprisingly, the 2013 World Happiness Report reveals in chapter three that mental illness is, in fact, the “single most important cause of unhappiness, but it is largely ignored by policy makers”.

The 2013 report shows that mental health is the “single most important determinant of individual happiness” (in every case where this has been studied). About 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from clinical depression or crippling anxiety disorders going by UN data.  And accordingly, that makes depression and anxiety the biggest causes of disability and absenteeism, with huge costs in terms of misery and economic waste. Most cases of depression and anxiety are easily treatable—medically and socially.

Cost-effective treatments exist as I have discussed in previous blogs, but even in advancedcountries, only a third of those who need it are in treatment according to the report. The incredibly frustrating part is that the available treatments ranging from psychotherapy (CBT, Mindfulness) to medication produce recovery rates of 50% or more, which means that effectively, fifty percent of the world’s ‘unhappy’ people could be happier and be living far more fulfilling lives!

That means that there are indeed objective benefits of subjective well-being. The Happiness Report 2013 shows a broad range of evidence showing that people who are emotionally happier, who have more satisfying lives, and who live in happier communities, are more likely both now and later to be healthy, productive, and socially connected. These benefits in turn flow more broadly to their families, workplaces, and communities, to the advantage of all.

But it seems not enough that human rights require that treatment should be as available for mental illness as it is for physical illness. The policy priority in much of the world for mental health, especially in developing countries, is incredibly low. Even politicians are marked by the terror of the stigma associated with mental illness such that mental illness is rarely expressed or internalized as a leading cause for the misery of any state’s population.

What I found particularly useful in the 2013 World Happiness Report are the solutions suggested to overcome these barriers to sound mental health and thus a happier global population. It suggests two main strategies: to provide better healthcare and social support for adults who are mentally ill. But a second is to intervene earlier — since half of adults who are mentally ill experienced the onset of their mental health problems by the age of 15, say the writers of the report. This, I suppose, would mean starting to talk about mental health as a real and substantial issue from a young age within schools and local communities. The research done on the mental health variable with regards to happiness shows the contribution of a child’s development to his/her resulting life satisfaction as a child. Basically, the emotional development of children is crucial to determining their mental health later in life. According to the research, “if you are interested in well-being, intellectual development needs to be balanced by much more interest in emotional and social development”.

Having read this report, I am even more enthused about the work that iFred is doing through the Schools for Hope program! While the notion of providing better mental health services at the adult stage will forever be crucial to the well-being of society, measures to incorporate the ideas of hope into school curriculums could well go a long way in preventing common mental disorders like depression and anxiety in the first place by nipping the bud at the root. And that is exactly what the World Happiness Report 2013 has clarified – that preventative care is possible, through education and services for young people!

A new article written by:

Jagannath Lamichhane

(with support from Bidushi Dhungel)

#happiness #teachhope #mentalhealth #shinelight

Artwork Inspires a Message of Hope Among Students

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April 4th, 2014 was a day of true celebration.  Students gathered in the heart of campus at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte to witness the dedication of a beautiful piece of artwork.  But it is the powerful and inspiring message that the sunflower sculpture displays that will continue to touch the lives of all who view it.

The sunflowers stand to honor the 350 million who suffer worldwide from depression and other forms of mental illness.  With that honor, it serves as a reminder that no one student or person should ever have to stand alone.  Help and Hope are always available in our greatest time of need.  A plaque reads:

This sunflower sculpture is donated to the University in recognition for those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses.  The sunflower is yellow, the color of joy; it naturally grows toward the sunlight and likewise, this sunflower sculpture symbolizes turning away from the darkness and embracing the light.  Embrace the light that surrounds us, as no amount of darkness can overpower the light that is available to all.

The Graduate Team and the Inspiring Story Behind Their Project

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 Pictured from left to right:  Bhargavi Golluru, Chris Yoder, Paul Franklin, Samantha Howie, and Tim Seckler

Their passion came from the heart with each student having known someone or been impacted in their life in some way by mental illness.  When learning about iFred’s Field for Hope project, the team initially wanted to do a sunflower planting on campus to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma of depression.

Early into their project, they were met with their first obstacle.  A viable location did not exist for the planting or care of sunflowers.  The team did not give up hope!  Instead, they decided to engineer and construct a sculpture in the form of a sunflower.  This course of action opened up the opportunity for creating awareness and sharing the message with campus inhabitants, faculty and visitors year round.

They put in an incredible amount of time and effort to see the sculpture come to life in a matter of weeks.  The team posted fliers announcing the unveiling, as well as creating an event on social media to invite the student body, faculty, and visitors.  Please visit Artwork for Hope for a visual display of their creative process.

The Dedication

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 The entire team was present to welcome attendees and share the story of their project.  Sunflower pins and brochures were distributed near a bright colored sign displaying the message “Help Bring Sunshine Into The Lives of Others”.  Samantha Howie stated, “Our ultimate goal is to let those with depression know that they are not alone.  There is help available.”

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Melissa Marshburn from Cardinal Innovations and Penny Tate from iFred were proud to attend, speak, and personally thank the students.
Cindy Ballaro was so inspired by the event, she has plans to carry on the message with her own sunflower sculpture displayCindy-Ballaro at The Respite: A Centre for Grief and Hope.  What a beautiful way to deliver hope through the creative process of art.

iFred extends a heartfelt thank you to the following students on the “To Give Them A Choice” Team.  These individuals deserve the highest recognition for all of their hard work in shining their light.  Their vision was brought to a reality and will impact the lives of students, faculty, and visitors to come.

A new article written by Penny Tate

#sharehope #endstigma #shinelight

Why the Global Movement for Mental Health? Time to Join.

Countries in crisis are a breeding ground for ill health. The social, political and economic conditions harbored by crises – from Tsunamis and earthquakes to conflicts – make countries ripe for disease. That’s why we see figures related to infant and maternal mortality, life expectancy and most communicable and non-communicable diseases posing a real threat to the livelihoods of a good chunk of the population in countries like the Sudan, Afghanistan or Iraq.

These factors of instability, destruction and violence have a huge impact on the mental health of a population as well. In fact, it has been proven that in countries where conflict is present the rate of mental health problems are higher. Take Afghanistan for example: it is estimated that 73% of Afghan women show symptoms of depression, 84% suffer from anxiety, and 48% from post-traumatic stress disorder. Of course, the figures are not much better for men either, but, women being the most vulnerable group, suffer most.

In many African countries, the situation concerning mental health is simply diabolical. Decades of conflict and violence matched by extreme poverty and destitution have left huge populations in a mental crisis. However, as dire as the situation is, these populations are the “forgotten,” “condemned” to a life of “misery and abuse,” according to photographer and journalist Robin Hammond, who recently published a collection of revealing photographs depicting the suffering of those with mental health problems in African countries which are most in crisis.

The images are telling in themselves and speak volumes about the unthinkable extent to which men, women and children are being treated as sub-human – caged, locked-up, chained, abused, beaten and bruised – within their own communities. In many instances, as the photos describe, there seems to be no alternative available in the context of abject poverty, lack of awareness and access.

One photograph which stands out is of a 13 year- old Ahmed Adan Ahmed, who “spends his days walking in circles, or sitting running his hands through the sand at his feet,” as “for 10 years, he has been tied to a stick under the tarpaulin of a tent in a camp for Internally Displaced People in Galkayo, Somalia.” What is painstakingly hard to digest is that his mother Fawzia “sees no other option – if she doesn’t tie him he will run away,” she told the photographer.

Ahmed Adan Ahmed

In another photograph from Nigeria, the image is perhaps even more distressing: a “patient” is tied to a tree with his hands joined as if begging. The caption for the image reads: “Native Doctor Lekwe Deezia claims to heal mental illness through the power of prayer and traditional herbal medicines. While receiving treatment, which can sometimes take months, his patients are chained to trees in his courtyard. They begged the photographer for food – they say they are only fed once a day, sometimes only once every 3 days. The Niger Delta, Nigeria.”

Nigerian Man Chained to Tree

These photos and the collection by Robin Hammond is perhaps one of the most comprehensive collections of images which portray the devastating reality of the negligence of mental health issues and of those who suffer on the ground in some of the world’s most marginalized countries in communities. In the midst of upheaval, they are left to suffer in silence.

In countries like Somalia, ravaged by over two decades of civil conflict, the World Health organization says that at least one in three people have some kind of mental health problem. And yet, the way in which such a major problem is being dealt with is by not dealing with it at all. The victims of disaster are being made to bear the brunt of their countries’ crisis — well demonstrated in the way in which those who suffer from mental illness are living across Africa.

But I have to admit that when I saw these photographs, I couldn’t help but think about the situation in my own country, Nepal. Centuries of exploitation and poverty, followed by a brutal civil conflict and social, political and economic instability has left the country ravaged. In many ways, those who suffer from mental health problems in Nepal share a similar fate to those as shown in Robin’s photographs. One image, in particular, of a 12-year old boy, Prabin, whom I came across years ago, keeps coming to mind. He was chained and locked up for seven years because he “lost his mind”. His father had to leave his job as a policeman during the Maoist insurgency because of the fear of violence. And when Prabin was two and half years old, his father went to Malaysia for work and returned home only after four years. Since then, no one had been employed in the family and one family member needed always to be around to look after Prabin.

There were many cross-cutting issues I saw in Prabin’s family which are symptomatic of all countries in crisis— poverty, disability, mental illness, trauma from the conflict, lack of healthcare, migration and unemployment — all of which collectively pushed the whole family into a predicament, with Prabin at the centre of the suffering. Prabin is no longer in chains thanks to a few well-wishers, but thousands like him, young boys and girls across Asia and Africa, are still being chained, locked up and abused. Prabin’s photo is pasted below.

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If the simple fact that massive human rights abuses and violations don’t inspire you to act, consider this.

If the simple fact that massive human rights abuses and violations don’t inspire you to act, consider this:  Some of the most famous people in the world, contributing the most to our global prosperity, had mental health issues they faced.  The only difference is they were treated with respect, had access to quality social and health care services, and used their mental anguish to fuel their trade .  Some of the greats include Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Oprah Winfrey, and others mentioned on our Famous Faces page.  Imagine a world where all those with mental health issues received timely support and treatment, and used their emotional depth as a force for good?

Today’s blog post is just a reminder, to myself and others who are working towards achieving the goals of the Movement for Global Mental Health, of why we need to pool our efforts to address this immediate crisis. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget why we do what we do. I hope this serves as a reminder to us all.

by Jagannath Lamichhane

With support from Bidushi Dhungel

In order to address the suffering of those with mental health problems, there needs to be a radical shift in the understanding of mental illness

-Jagannath Lamichanne

I have always believed that the challenge of dealing with mental health problems is their invisibility. Anyone who suffers from mental illness repeatedly questions: Does it exist? Do other people also suffer the same problem? Do people believe that my mental suffering is real? Does it make me different? It is to provide answers to such complex questions, to promote the visibility of mental health, promote their acceptance and find ways to address the problems related to them that I have been working.

I learned early on that mental health problems were of serious concern to many people around the world. For example, depression, — the most common of mental illnesses — if left untreated, can lead to disastrous personal, social and even economic costs. Further, the lack of treatment and right to live with integrity as an

"...our big challenge is the legitimacy of civil society voices who have been struggling for years demanding the recognition of human rights and the social condition of people with mental health problems."

“…our big challenge is the legitimacy of civil society voices who have been struggling for years demanding the recognition of human rights and the social condition of people with mental health problems.”

equal member of society for those who suffer is an infringement on their human rights. This is especially true in under developed and developing countries where resources are scarce and access to any kind of treatment is bogged down with stigma alongside financial burdens.

In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report titled “Mental Health and Development”. It focused on the civil, economic, human, and health rights of people with mental health conditions. According to the report, “the majority of development and poverty alleviation programmes do not reach persons with mental or psychosocial disabilities.” It goes on to say that between 75 percent and 85 percent of people who suffer from a variety of mental health problems do not have access to any form of mental health treatment.

But what is most crucial is the impact that such problems can have on society and on personal well-being of those who suffer. The report suggests that those with “mental and psychosocial disabilities are associated with rates of unemployment as high as 90 percent” and that they are “not provided with educational and vocational opportunities to meet their full potential”.

The lack of treatment and the stigma associated with mental illness has pushed those who suffer to the extreme margins. However, the relevance of mental health as a global issue is further established when one examines the link between chronic physical illness and mental illness, for mental illness is not an isolated occurrence.

According to WHO, four chronic illnesses—cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer and respiratory illnesses— are responsible for 60 percent of the world’s deaths. Further, The Lancet series on Global Mental Health suggests that persons with these chronic illnesses have much higher rates of depression and anxiety than the general population. Major depression among persons experiencing chronic medical conditions increases the burden of their physical illness and somatic symptoms. More importantly, it increases medical costs and mortality.

The bottom line is that mental illnesses occur with chronic physical illnesses in many patients, causing significant role impairment, loss of productive hours and disability. They also worsen prognosis for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other chronic illnesses. But the majority of factors responsible for mental illnesses — like depression among those suffering from chronic illnesses — are not being adequately addressed.

It has been a hard job for us to educate people that mental illnesses are a result of both social and medical conditions. While improving the quality of mental health services in coordination with physical health services, we also need social attention, care and support to ensure the recovery of people with mental health problems.

For this, the WHO report suggests two development paradigms: the need to improve aid effectiveness in poor countries; and the use of a human rights approach (universally) that ensures there are sufficient resources to provide quality services for people with mental health problems as well as their inclusion in development programmes.

Still our big challenge is the legitimacy of civil society voices who have been struggling for years demanding the recognition of human rights and the social condition of people with mental health problems. There is a need to create a strong social force for radical changes in the mental health area.

(With support from Bidushi Dhungel)

 

Kathryn’s Story: Tackling Depression with a Smart Treatment Plan

Kathryn Goetzke, Field for HopeAs we hold onto our own islands of Hope in the face of depression, we are sure that the same treatment doesn’t work for everyone. Along with therapy and medication, various lifestyle choices and changes may add to our well being. In an article from Everyday Health, iFred founder Kathryn Goetzke discusses how she copes with depression.

‘Over the years, Goetzke has tried numerous medications, therapies, and healing modalities and has settled on “a pretty long list of things I do to keep myself mentally healthy.” Still, she notes, “even then I am not completely free from depression.” On the flip side, she says, “I have learned coping mechanisms that seem to keep my life running along very well.””

Read the story and tell us what a smart treatment plan looks like for you. Join our social networks for mental health,  including our community on Insipre, if you want to talk and learn more from others who find hope through their depression.

Everyday Health: “Tackling Depression with a Smart Treatment Plan”

Seeds for Hope

Lamichhane and Goetzke at the first Global Mental Health Summit

I still remember the first day I met Kathryn Goetze, founder of the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred). It was in Greece on the 2nd of September, 2009, during the first ever global mental health summit; the early days of my entry into the then-newly emerging field of global mental health. I guess you could say that until then, when it came to issues of mental health, my understanding was traditional and shaped by negative public perceptions.

However, it was upon hearing Kathryn speak at the summit about the need to rebrand depression and her endeavor to give depression a positive brand with the help of the image of sunflowers, that I began to understand how we can work to re-construct social understandings of mental illness and depression. I began too slowly realize that societal perceptions of mental health are constructed with negative images and that with effective campaigning, could well be re-constructed with the use of positive imagery like that of the sunflower.

Since 2009, I have remained in constant communication with Kathryn, keenly observing her work. It was in 2011 that I finally got a chance to actually work with her on her global initiative — the Field for Hope campaign, where fields of sunflowers are planted to shed light on depression and simultaneously work to give the mental health related problems a more positive image. It was, however, only recently that I thought about exactly what the motivations for Kathryn’s involvement in the sector were. I knew that she was doing wonderful and innovative work to tackle stigma against depression but didn’t know why she was doing it. I caught up with her and what I learned was telling.

Kathryn had lost her father to suicide at the tender age of 19. “It was very devastating to me. He was a brilliant businessman, very close to me, and I knew there was something ‘wrong’ with him from an early age, but had no idea what it was,” she recalled. It was only after several years of study in her 20’s that she realized it was untreated depression.

By the time she was in her 30’s Kathryn began to apprehend that she too was struggling with depression, “a chemical imbalance of the brain that manifests itself in different ways through different people,” in her words. She had developed addictions – to food, alcohol and could not understand why for a long time.

That’s why when Kathryn launched her company she wanted to donate her time and resources to help educate people about depression. However, in order to do so, she would have to start a new movement herself.

The sad reality of the global context of depression is that even the non-profits and organizations working on depression are by and large straggled themselves by the negative stigmas and imageries surrounding depression. Kathryn found that “the nonprofits doing work in this area were often, ironically, depressing.” According to her, these non-profits focused more “on symptoms rather than the impact of treatment,” and fail to recognize the fact that depression is the “most hopeful disease there is — depression is treatable.” That fact is one that many societies across the world, even the most developed, are yet to come to terms with.

The majority of images of depression are depressing people–sad men and women, head bowing down, arms wrapped around the knees and almost crying, in dreadful black and white gloom. As an expert in marketing and branding, Kathryn set out to challenge and, thus, change the stigma surrounding depression. by creating an organization to help rebrand the disease through “educating other NGOs about branding and stigma, engaging celebrities and role models to talk about the disease, and teach the public about the biology of the brain.”

 

For Kathryn, it is this biology of the brain that is central to being mentally fit. “We must learn about creating and maintaining a healthy brain. Everything they think, eat, feel, and do affects the health of their brain.” According to her, the world is going to be based more and more on human intelligence, so creativity, brain health, and ability to solve problems is increasing ever more in importance. That is why Kathryn has begun this new movement to “Learn about and feed the brain in positive ways.”

 

This is not the first time such a rebranding of a disease is taking place. A major rebranding success was seen in fighting the stigma surrounding breast cancer some decades ago. Iconic symbols like the pink ribbon and the ownership of the cause by celebrities helped to quickly bring the disease to the mainstream and strip it of its negative stigma. Kathryn hopes to help enable the same for depression.

When asked what she would like to see accomplished in her life, she replied that she’d like to see an “event similar to ‘Stand Up to Cancer’, engaging celebrities from all walks of life to raise money and awareness for depression by speaking out on how to find hope when all else is going wrong.”  Further, Kathryn wants to be able to “live in a world where there are no suicides and people feel fine about getting treatment for their depression.” Her advocacy is undoubtedly on the right track to make this a reality.

In addition, Kathryn is working with companies to implement depression awareness and prevention programs in the workplace. She is also working on her Schools for Hope, “a curriculum we are developing to teach kids about how they can create Hope,” she said. Towards this end, she is also seeking support from consumer products companies.

Having been a part of the Field for Hope campaign, I can see its positive effects in encouraging communities to gather and talk about healthy brains and as a way to “honour those with depression,” as Kathryn told me. Overtime, the image of the sunflower will drown out the negative images of depression we see all-too-prevalent today. What Kathryn hopes for the future is to “have people think of a sunflower when they hear the word depression.”

Her work has been exemplary and encouraging in every way for the millions who are suffering. She vows to continue encouraging others to find the beauty in their darkness, and use the powerful force to create something full of light and inspiration for others.

I am proud to continue to be a part of her noble endeavor through my weekly blog beginning as of January 2014. I urge all to join hands to combat the greatest tragedy of the 21st century–depression.

-Jagannath Lamichhane

(With support from Bidushi Dhungel)

Jagannath Lamichhane is a mental health and human rights activist from Nepal. Currently, he is doing an MSC in global mental health, a program jointly run by Kings College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK. 

World Health Organization Adopts Mental Health Action Plan

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We recently learned that the 66th World Health Assembly has adopted the World Health Organization’s comprehensive mental health action plan (2013-2020). The action plan is the outcome of extensive global and regional consultations over the last year with a broad array of stakeholders including: 135 Member States; 60 WHO CCs and other academic centers; 76 NGOs and 17 other stakeholders and experts.

As one of the 76 contributing nonprofit organizations at the forum, we are proud to have played a role in the development of this Action Plan as we feel it is a critical step in the right direction of eradicating the stigma of depression and meeting the needs of the 350 million worldwide living with the disease.

As part of our ongoing efforts to be leaders and advocates for the disease, we plan to have International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) representatives once again at the mhGAP Forum in October to discuss the launch of the plan and its implementation.

The four major objectives of the action plan are to:

  • Strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health.
  • Provide comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings.
  • Implement strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health.
  • Strengthen information systems, evidence and research for mental health.

We look forward to continuing collaboration with WHO representatives and working towards solutions that will give hope to millions living with depression.

For more information about the Action Plan click here.

“Four simple words…I suffer from depression”

I recently came across this video of Kevin Breel speaking to a group of people at a recent TED-X conference and was blown away by his poignant account of what it’s been like living with depression and his hopes for a future without stigma.

As you may remember from my earlier posts, I lost my father when I was Kevin’s age to suicide and I consider myself a depression survivor. It is through the sharing of these stories and personal accounts that I believe we will be able to shine a light of HOPE for the 350 million worldwide living with depression.

I hope you’ll take 11 minutes to watch this video of Kevin. If you live with depression, someone in your life lives with depression, or you don’t think you know anyone living with depression – you need to watch this video. It will be well worth your time.

Watch Kevin’s video here: http://www.causes.com/causes/101854/updates/793004

 

 

Stories from the Field

Americans across the country are getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July holiday tomorrow, a holiday all about the human spirit and a renewal of #HOPE. So it seemed like a fitting time to bring you our first Story from the Field, stories about the people we have had the honor and privilege to meet through the Field for Hope campaign. These narratives, pictures and videos are our way of helping spark positive conversations around depression and mental health in order to help chip away at the negative stigma surrounding the disease.

Earlier this year we met Tim Kahlor at the PRISM Awards in Los Angeles, an annual awards show that honors TV, movie, music, DVD and comic book entertainment that accurately depict mental health issues. Tim’s son Ryan is a military veteran who lives with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We asked Tim to share his incredible story with us to help kick off our Stories from the Field series.

Contributed by Tim Kahlor

Ryan joined the military in 2002 when he was 18-years-old on a delayed entry program so he could get his braces off his teeth before basic training. He was promised a $12,000 sign-on bonus and told he would be stationed in Germany. We’d sent him to Europe when he was in high school and he loved it. Ryan was always an adventurous kid and loved playing sports; the thought of being paid to keep in shape was his dream job. The military offered him adventure, the ability to work out and stay in shape, all while seeing the world.

Photo of Ryan Kahlor and his rescued shelter cat taken by Hannah Kahlor.

Photo of Ryan Kahlor and his rescued shelter cat taken by Hannah Kahlor.

He left for basic training on March 18, 2003, the day before the war in Iraq started. Ryan was a member of the 1st Armored Division based out of Baumholder, Germany, and was being sent to Holenfeld, Germany, to a non-deployable unit. However when they offered him rank quicker and no tax on his combat pay if he went to Iraq, he accepted the offer. In 2003 Ryan served as an Infantryman in Bagdad, guarding the green zone and then was later sent out on missions in other areas. There was a lot of action, but it was the next deployment that caused the most damage to Ryan. When we saw him next in 2004 he was friendly, but guarded.   

Ryan was married in December of 2005 and deployed to Iraq again in January 2006. That November Ryan endured many struggles, as he was involved in several horrible firefights leaving him to handle many of the dead and wounded. During his two deployments Ryan received repeated injuries to his head and body, including a Traumatic Brain Injury. When he returned to the U.S. they finally sent him to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego to be part of the Wounded Warrior Project for Army members who are injured in combat. There, Ryan’s PTSD really began to erupt, resulting in fighting and explosive yelling. One day I found him rolled up in a ball in the middle of the living room. Ryan was sent to Palo Alto’s in-patient program for PTSD at the VA hospital there. Which I believe, to this day, is still the best program I’ve seen Ryan come out of since 2007 for dealing with PTSD.  

When your child is killed in combat the pain of war is over for the soldier or marine, but continues on for their family. When your child lives through combat and comes home with PTSD the mental war of combat is brought from the battlefield into the living room, kitchen, bedroom and to the surrounding community. Ryan was the poster child in 2007 and 2008 for getting and responding to PTSD treatment, but there are always going to be relapses no matter how well treatment has served in addressing the problem. That is the hardest part to get through; the rough times that disillude the thought that the struggle is over after everything seems to be going so well. My family has found that being willing to listen to him when he wants to talk about it and always letting him know I am there for him is one of the most helpful things we can do. I don’t ask questions unless he opens a door that will allow me to ask a questions. There are people that think you can “shake it out of them” or “tell them some story about a cousin, uncle or buddy they knew that was in combat” or the guy that says “you got to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with your life” (my response to that one is ‘what if the boot straps are already broken?’)  Then you have the people who want you to explain why there is more PTSD now than in past wars. I ignore things like the above and celebrate Ryan’s success; I often text him about how proud I am of what he is doing.  

Ryan just finished a semester of college with great grades and we celebrated it as a family going out to dinner. This is major because in the past he couldn’t sit in a classroom long enough to finish a semester. We set goals and plans for future outings together that I know Ryan enjoys. Last summer, Ryan and his wife Hannah took me to Yosemite camping and it was like heaven for us all. I saw the joy in my son’s face taking me someplace that I loved and he loved it too. This year we already have a trip planned at the Kern River and Yosemite hiking the whole time and playing in the river. Ryan teaches surfing and kayaking to wounded warriors during the summer, so we encourage him to keep doing that when he can as well as cycling.  

It is so important that families don’t forget to find time to get help for themselves and the knowledge to help a loved one suffering from PTSD. They should always be aware of signs of isolation and frustration to be readily to supportive. Families dealing with a loved one with PTSD should remember that there will be good days and bad days, and you have to hope that the good days get longer and the bad days get shorter.

Tim’s story exhibits one main and powerful fact: being open and honest about the reality of PTSD can enable our sons, daughters, fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, and friends to hold their heads up high, walk around unashamed and seek treatment in spite of the stigma. This example further promotes the belief that above all we must love, care, support and advocate on behalf of our loved ones living with conditions like PTSD and depression. Liberate yourself and your loved ones by taking a stand and joining us in the cause to end the negative stigma associated with the disease. Speak out, volunteer, contribute and help us build a community. Take the Pledge to Plant, spread the word and join iFred in honoring the 350 million around the world living with depression.