Kenya focuses on depression on world health day

Kenyans on Friday joined the rest of the world in marking the international world health day.

In its 68th year, the World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated annually on April 7, under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO).


The day is held to mark WHO’s founding, and seen as an opportunity by the organisation to draw worldwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health each year.

In Kenya, the day was marked by a media breakfast event at a Nairobi Hotel, with special focus on depression.

Diabetes, food safety, vector-borne disease are some of the past themes officials picked as World Health Day initiatives.

Under the theme “Depression: let’s talk” the organisation aims to create more awareness about depression, its causes and that it can be treated.

The WHO defines depression as a common mental illness characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for 14 days or longer.


In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) as a common but serious mood disorder.

“It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working,” states the National Institute of Mental Health website.

To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

Compared to stress, (a feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure), depression is more serious and long-lasting, and requires a different kind of help.

“The continuing stigma associated with mental illness was the reason why we decided to name our campaign Depression: let’s talk,” said Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO.


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

According to WHO, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, with recently released estimates indicating that more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015.

Depression is more common among females (5.1 per cent) than males (3.6 per cent).

In Kenya, WHO estimates that at least 2 million people (4.4per cent) suffer from depression as the country is ranked 6th with the highest number of depression cases among African countries.

Most of these patients are the youth aged between 11 and 24 years.


Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with fear of stigma, however, prevent many patients from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.

“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,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan.

The health agency has called on governments to increase investment on treating depression

In many countries, the WHO says, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders.

“Even in high-income countries, nearly 50per cent of people with depression do not get treatment. On average, just 3per cent of government health budgets is invested in mental health, varying from less than 1 per cent in low-income countries to 5per cent in high-income countries,” states the WHO.


If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression. However, not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom.

1.Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

2.Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism


4.Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

5.Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

6. Decreased energy or fatigue

7. Moving or talking more slowly

8. Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still

9. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

10. Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

11. Appetite and/or weight changes

12. Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.

13. Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health.

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