The World Health Organizations reports that depression is now the leading cause of poor health and disability, up 18% since 2005, with more than 300 million afflicted people. The stigma attached to mental illness is what prevents many of them from ever seeking treatment, says Austin psychologist Dr. John Huber, who finds the same issues with patients he treats in hospitals. “It’s the number one obstacle I have to face. They don’t want people to think they’re broke, or crazy,” he tells KTRH News. He blames a failure to develop adequate coping skills with fueling the increase in the number of cases. “We’ve gotten so comfortable in our lives and in our world that we’ve skipped learning some of those coping mechanisms,” says Dr. Huber.
The WHO director general calls the numbers a wake-up call for all nations of the world and recommends they rethink their approach to tackling what has been a long-term health crisis. But Houston psychologist Dr. Lawrence Abrams isn’t ready to ring alarm bells yet. “You’re talking about 3 out of 65 having depression? Most of us go through depressed moods off and on every couple days or so,” Dr. Lawrence Abrams. “Depression is an endemic part of any personality. It’s a feeling. You have feelings: you’re going to be happy at times, you’re going to be depressed at times.” Dr. Abrams says depression is a serious condition, but the word is often thrown around haphazardly. “They really don’t know, when you talk about depression, if you’re talking about someone who gets depressed at times, or someone saying ‘I’m depressed all the time, seriously I can’t move.’ So it really needs to be refined as to what degree of depression you’re talking about and how bad it is.” The World Health Organization is beginning a campaign to tackle the stigma associated with mental illness.