World health day - depression

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World Health Day is an annual event organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It has been celebrated on the 7th of April every year since 1950, each year focusing on a different aspect of human health. This year, World Health Day will focus on the issue of depression. In observance of this day, we have compiled an overview of depression in Ireland.

Depression in Ireland

According to research conducted by the ERSI between 2002 and 2013, Stress, anxiety, and depression (SAD) are the second most common cause for missed workdays, after musculoskeletal disorders. SAD accounts for 18% of all sick days, with roughly 55,000 workers affected in 2013. Workers aged 35-54 are most likely to experience SAD, with the condition affected more women (5.8%) than men (4%).

Irish women in general are twice as likely to suffer from depression compared to Irish men. Despite this, 82% of all suicides in Ireland in 2015 were men. Statistics released by the CSO last year found that, although the total number of suicides in Ireland has gone down, this data is slightly skewed. When examined, it becomes clear that although suicide has dropped in Leinster, it has actually risen in the other three provinces. Most notable is the contrast between rural and urban areas; while in 2015, Waterford City had no reported suicides, Waterford County’s figures doubled from 9 to 19.

10% of people will suffer from severe depression at some point during their teenage years. In general, 25% of men and 50% of women will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Despite the regularity of depression in Ireland, only 1 in 3 people will actually seek professional help.


The biggest factor behind the lack of desire to seek help is the stigma attached to mental health. This is neither an Irish or a recent phenomenon. There are ongoing campaigns all over the world aimed at reducing the stigma of mental health issues. However, calls to rethink this stigma have gone back decades. When the NHS was founded in the UK in 1948, it revolutionised the way the UK approached mental health by classifying it as equally important to physical health. This was a turning point in society’s approach to mental health, signalling the end of overcrowded hospitals, lobotomies, electroshock therapy, and other barbaric practices.

Almost 70 years later, the world is still struggling to open up about mental health. While things have improved dramatically, people remain reluctant to admit to having problems. The reason for this is that, unlike most physical ailments, mental illness is easier to hide. Rather than admitting to themselves and others that something might be wrong, many choose to stay silent for fear that people will see them differently.

The fact that mental health is now being approached by the medical community with the same gravitas as physical health is a big step forward. But there is one significant difference between the two. When it comes to physical health, the onus lies mainly with the patient and professional to work together to improve the situation. When it comes to mental health however, it is imperative for everyone to work to remove the stigma, regardless of whether or not they have a mental health issue themselves.

We know that two-thirds of people with depression will not seek professional help. This means the only way for many of people to get help is for others to bring it to them. You may not think your friends or family are affected, but the reality is that there are many people suffering in silence. So this World Health Day, take the opportunity to let your friends and family know that you won’t judge. Whether you talk to someone you think is hurting, or put out a public call on social media, each and every one of us has a responsibility to take away a little bit of that stigma.

World Health Day will take place on the 7th of April. To learn more about this year’s theme, please click here.

David Clarke