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On World Mental Health Day Ban calls depression underappreciated global health crisis

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“Among the barriers to care and services are social stigma and the lack of general health care providers and specialists trained to identify and treat depression,” he said in a message marking World Mental Health Day, in which he noted that about 1 million people commit suicide every year, the majority due to unidentified or untreated depression. He stressed that although a wide variety of effective and affordable treatments are available to treat depression, including psychosocial interventions and medicines, these are not accessible to all people, especially those living in less developed countries and the least advantaged citizens of more developed nations. Mr. Ban noted that the UN World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting countries through its Mental Health Gap Action Programme, but added that depression is not simply a matter for health experts. “We can all act to relieve the stigma around depression and other mental disorders, perhaps by admitting that we may have experienced depression ourselves, or by reaching out to those experiencing it now. On World Mental Health Day, let us pledge to talk more openly about depression. “This is the first critical step to removing one of the barriers to treatment and helping to reduce the disability and distress caused by this global crisis,” he added, stressing that the illness diminishes people’s ability to cope with the daily challenges of life, and often precipitates family disruption, interrupted education and loss of jobs. Among the causes of depression, Mr. Ban cited genetic, biological, psychological and social factors, while stress, grief, conflict, abuse and unemployment can also contribute. Women are more likely to suffer depression than men, including following childbirth, he noted. In collaboration with WHO, writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone tells the story of overcoming the “black dog of depression”. Credit: WHOBeyond the 350 million people of all ages, incomes and nationalities who directly suffer from depression, millions more – family, friends, co-workers – are exposed to the indirect effects of the affliction, he noted. Mr. Ban’s message was echoed by the WHO, which underscored how depression interferes with the ability to function at work, school or home. “We have some highly effective treatments for depression. Unfortunately, fewer than half of the people who have depression receive the care they need. In fact, in many countries this is less than ten per cent,” Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, said. “This is why WHO is supporting countries in fighting stigma as a key activity to increasing access to treatment.” read more

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As conditions worsen in Yemen new UN envoy hopes to rekindle peace

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“A negotiated political settlement through inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue is the only way to end the Yemeni conflict and address the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, told the Security Council today.“Peace becomes possible when we see the good in our foes, even though we can see clearly the cruelties of war,” he added.In his first briefing to the Security Council since assuming his responsibilities in March, Mr. Griffiths informed its members that he plans to develop principles for peace negotiations within the next two months.The promised drive for a settlement comes as living conditions in Yemen become increasingly desperate, in what now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.Speaking alongside the Mr. Griffiths, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said: “More than 22 million people urgently require some form of humanitarian help, including 8.4 million people who struggle to find their next meal.”Peace becomes possible when we see the good in our foes, even though we can see clearly the cruelties of war – UN Special Envoy Martin GriffithsWhile he said it was his perception that the warring sides in Yemen desire peace, Mr. Griffiths drew attention to the increased number of ballistic missiles launched towards Saudi Arabia, intensified military operations in north-west Yemen, and airstrikes in the capital of Sana’a and other cities that are causing civilian deaths and diminishing hopes for peace.Conflict is ongoing there between an international coalition of forces supporting President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi on the one side, and Houthi militias and allied units of the armed forces on the other.“The people of Yemen are in desperate need of signs that this war will soon end,” Mr.  Griffiths said.Mr. Griffiths assumed his responsibilities on 11 March, succeeding Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed who had served as the Special Envoy since April 2015. UN Photo/Manuel EliasMartin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in that country. Efforts to provide humanitarian relief to millions of Yemenis has been severely hampered, Mr. Lowcock, the Organization’s aid chief, said, because of bureaucratic obstacles imposed by authorities as well as restrictions on imports and customs clearance, and long delays and searches at checkpoints.“Sana’a airport also remains closed to commercial traffic, preventing thousands of critically ill patients from travelling abroad to seek treatment unavailable in Yemen,” Mr. Lowcock said.Another risk of cholera outbreakMr. Lowcock, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, warned that another major outbreak of cholera looms, though aid workers are trying to take preventive measures and are pre-positioning supplies should it occur.“A successful response requires safe unimpeded and unhindered access across and into Yemen for humanitarian staff and humanitarian supplies,” he said, as well as predictable fuel imports to keep hospitals and water treatment plants running. read more

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