Every fifth Pole affected by depression – we need local alliances to fight the disease

Depression – at different moments of life and with different intensity – affects one in five Poles. In the fight against this disease, especially among children and youth, local alliances are to help, initiating the cooperation of many people, institutions and organizations – it was emphasized during the Tuesday conference in Katowice.

Among the organizers of the meeting “Silesia and Zagłębie against depression” were the Representation of the European Commission in Poland and the Polish Office of the European Parliament, in cooperation with the Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Poland and the Alliance Against Depression.

The culmination of the forum was the signing by representatives of the cities and communes of the Upper Silesian-Zagłębie Metropolis (GZM) of a declaration of support for counteracting depression. In the fall of last year, a similar declaration was signed by the mayors of the capital; the alliance against depression is already active in the Piaseczno poviat. Similar actions are to be taken in other regions.

“Mental health problems affect the vast majority of us – not only directly, but also through people close to us. Every fifth Pole is afraid of depression. A significant proportion of people who died by suicide suffered from depression. There are more and more young people who require specialist psychological help in connection with depression. It is us – institutions, educators, doctors, social workers, parents – who have the responsibility to take care of their mental well-being,” explained Bartłomiej Balcerzyk, Deputy Director of the European Commission Representation in Poland.

The signatories of the declaration signed in Katowice undertook, within their competences, to “make special efforts to use the recognized good practices of the European Union and the World Health Organization in disseminating knowledge about diagnosing and treating depression in local communities in the Metropolis”.

Danuta Kamińska, vice-president of the board of the Upper Silesian and Zagłębie Metropolis, declared support for the Metropolis GZM for actions aimed at combating depression. “I declare and promise that as the Metropolis GZM we will support the initiatives of cities in this regard; we will publish good practices; we will do everything to ensure that this topic does not disappear from the public space,” said the representative of the Metropolis, noting that for the mental condition it is also important to take care of spatial order, the shaping of which is within the competence of the Metropolis GZM.

Singer Anna Wyszkoni, who publicly spoke about her personal experiences related to depression, drew attention to the need to familiarize people with the view that depression is not a shame.

“The key here is the role of people like me – more or less recognizable and popular, who admit that they had an emotional crisis, that they went through depression, that they were diagnosed with anxiety and depression. We need to show people that depression is something that can affect each of us, that it is not a shame to reach for help, to admit such an ailment, “explained the singer.

“There are still people who come and thank me for telling about my experiences – because I inspired them to act; to admit to themselves that they have a problem and can reach out for help. There were really a lot of these people and they keep coming,” reported Anna Wyszkoni. “I want to use my recognition and popularity for good purposes; I don’t just want to sing and convey my emotions through songs, I just want to inspire people,” she declared.

According to Dorota Jarosińska from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, in the 53-country European region, about 150 million people experience mental health problems at some point in their lives, and 1 in 3 people suffering from depression do not receive proper treatment. help.

In Poland – as Jarosińska said – about 23 percent. people have experienced mental health problems at some point in their lives. “There are many causes and determinants of these problems – from local ones, in the immediate community, at school, in the workplace, to conditions going beyond the national scale, such as the ongoing war in Ukraine or global processes, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change, only seemingly distant from the issue of mental health,” explained the representative of the WHO, listing counteracting and combating depression among the priorities of the European office of this organization.

According to the data of the World Health Organization cited during the Tuesday conference in Katowice, depression is one of the most harmful disorders in the world, affecting approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men at some point in their lives. It is estimated that each year in Europe about 7 percent. people (about 40 million people) experience a depressive episode.

The disease can affect anyone – men and women of all ages, with different levels of education, social and economic status suffer from depression. When depression occurs, all areas of life are affected and at risk: family, parenting, marriage, relationships, making friends, work, study, career and finances.

Often, depression recurs after the first episode and, if left undiagnosed and treated, can become a long-term or chronic condition. According to the WHO, 3 out of 4 people suffering from depression do not receive adequate treatment. Importantly, a close relationship between depression and suicidal behavior has been demonstrated – a significant number of people with depression die by suicide – in the EU every year it is about 48 thousand. people, compared to approx. 23 thousand. fatalities in road accidents.

According to WHO statistics, every year about 800,000 people in the world die of suicide, and the number of suicide attempts is about 20 times higher. It was estimated that preventive actions improving the care and optimizing the treatment of patients with depression may contribute to reducing the number of suicidal acts. Access to depression treatment and suicide prevention is a challenge for Europe, the WHO points out.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, risk factors for depression and suicide, such as limited psychiatric care, social isolation, disrupted daily rhythms and financial stress, have become more common. It is important to know that depression can be treated – psychotherapy or antidepressants, or a combination of both, are effective.

The director of the European Parliament office in Poland, Witold Naturski, reminded that in 2020 the European Parliament adopted a resolution, encouraging EU institutions and governments of member states to take action to combat depression. Moreover, the EP recognized mental health as one of the fundamental human rights. Naturski emphasized the importance of creating local alliances to fight depression – permanent “living” networks of people, institutions and organizations cooperating to effectively support people experiencing depression and prevent suicidal behavior.

“In October 2022, we met with the mayors of Warsaw, who signed a declaration of support for counteracting depression. We are glad that with today’s declaration, representatives of cities and municipalities of the province of of Silesia join this extremely important initiative,” summed up Naturski.

The addressees of the Tuesday conference in Katowice were i.a. representatives of local governments, general practitioners, psychologists, school principals, educators, non-governmental organizations and local communities, ready to engage in informal, local alliances to fight depression. “The goal of the conference was to increase understanding and knowledge about mental health in our communities, schools, workplaces and at home,” organizers said.


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