Global depression crisis under spotlight

The global depression crisis is being examined at a gathering of international policymakers, health and business leaders and academics in London.

Australian mental health leaders Pat McGorry and Jack Heath have joined a gathering of international policymakers, health and business leaders, and academics in London to examine the need for a global response to depression’s growing impact.

“Depression is the biggest mental health challenge among people of working age, and the leading cause of disability worldwide,” says Jack Heath, CEO of the national mental health charity, SANE Australia.

Former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan opened the conference and advocated that mental health should be placed on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals agenda.

He said reducing the stigma around mental health is an absolute priority.

This is undoubtedly the first time mental illness has been given the same attention paid to major physical health problems, says Heath.

Research released by SANE Australia last year showed that while Australian workers are more likely to know the symptoms of depression than their European counterparts, they are far less likely to disclose the condition to their employer.

“Only 55% of Australian workers would inform their employer if they required time off for depression, compared to 72% in Europe,” says Heath.

He says that while large Australian businesses are providing far better support than the large European businesses, more needs to be done with small and medium sized businesses in Australia.

“Despite all the great work done to increase awareness about depression, far too many people still don’t feel it’s okay to talk about their illness and we need to change this,” he says.

“The challenge is to ensure our workplaces are better equipped to support people experiencing depression along with other forms of mental illness.

“People need to get effective help early on and then get back to work quickly and, most importantly, healthy.  At the same time, we need to focus our efforts on preventing depression, including through evidence-based mindfulness practices.

“It is clear, however, that Australia is way ahead on many fronts including in the youth area but we still have a long way to go.”

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