The Malta Independent 22 September 2019, Sunday

30,000 Maltese suffer from chronic depression

Malta Independent Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 08:30 Last update: about 6 years ago

Close to 30,000 Maltese citizens are reported to suffer from chronic depression, comprising 6.6% of the entire population. Worldwide, over 350 million people suffer from depressive disorders, affecting anyone regardless of age, gender of socio-economic status.

A European Health survey also revealed that women experience higher rates of chronic depression – 7.7% of women suffer from the illness, compared to the 5.4% of men. European Statistics estimate that depression is twice more common in women than in men.

The age gaps however vary - men are more likely to suffer from depression between the age of 24 and 34. Women on the other hand tend to have a higher reported rate between 15 and 24 years of age, and from 35 up to 75.

Even though depressive disorders can affect anyone at any time, local data suggests that people with lower levels of education are 9 times more at risk of depression when compared to people who completed a tertiary level of education. Widows as well as people in lower income groups also have a higher risk of depression.

While some experience depression for a short period of time, others suffer from depressive moods for prolonged periods. Others experience repeated episodes frequently. Symptoms indicating depression may include changes in sleeping patterns, loss of appetite, poor concentration, reduced energy and depressive moods. A person experiencing stress related to work, family pressures, changes circumstances and trauma has a higher risk of depression.

There is help for those suffering from such disorder. Depression can be easily recognised by health professions and specialised form of care can guide a person towards recovery.  Treatment includes assistance by psychologists and psychotherapists. Medical treatment – antidepressants – is also an option, if prescribed by a psychiatrist.  However patients are strongly urged not to discontinue or change dose of frequency of medication without first seeking advice.

In the wake of the tragic death of comedian Robin Williams, and the heightened discussion about such mental disorders, the office of the commissioner for mental health in Malta is strongly urging anyone experiencing symptoms described to seek assistance. A family doctor might guide an individual towards the Crisis Intervention Team at Mater Dei. Several work places as well as academic institution offer support services for students and employees.

Furthermore, such persons should not be stigmatised or penalised but rather treated with care to ensure they remain fully functional members of society. A new mental health care act stipulates that no person can be discriminated on the basis of mental illness. The commissioner can be called to investigate any allegations of discrimination or exploitation of a person on the basis of his mental health status.

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