Cases of depression have soared more than 18 percent over a decade, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A new estimate reveals more than 300 million people worldwide are living with the common mental illness, which is now the leading cause of disability.

“These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves,” said Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, in a news release.

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Depression is characterized by constant feelings of sadness, a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, and an inability to complete daily tasks, for 2 weeks or longer. Other symptoms include anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbances, lack of energy, changes in appetite, and trouble thinking. It’s also a major cause of suicide. Nearly 800,000 people take their lives every year.

There’s an urgent need for increased investment to assist those with mental health disorders, the WHO notes. In high-income countries, about half of the people with depression don’t receive treatment, which usually involves talk therapy, antidepressant medication, or a combination of the two.

“A better understanding of depression and how it can be treated, while essential, is just the beginning. What needs to follow is sustained scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most remote populations in the world,” said Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the WHO.

One way the WHO is fighting the stigma associated with depression is through their one-year campaign called, “Depression: let’s talk.” It specifically targets those who are disproportionately affected by the mental disorder, including adolescents and young adults, women after childbirth, and adults over 60 years old; however, depression can affect anyone.

Their campaign resources include a packet of information about depression that has posters, handouts, ideas for activities to bring awareness to the disorder, and more.

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