IRIB Ineffective in Raising Social, Health Awareness

Globally, the rate of depression has increased by 50% over the past two decades; studies and figures show that depression is now burdening nearly 350 million in the world
Some 12.7% of Iranians (6.4 million) are living with depression.
Some 12.7% of Iranians (6.4 million) are living with depression.

Health Minister Hassan Qazdizadeh Hashemi singled out the state-owned radio and TV broadcaster last week for failing to raise awareness on important health issues in an effective and timely manner.

“It is indeed regrettable that the state TV, which must work for national wellbeing, is largely concentrated on serving political agendas,” he said at the National Conference on World Health Day in Tehran.

The World Health Organization’s theme this year for World Mental Health Day (observed on April 7), is ‘Depression: Let’s Talk’. The overall goal of the one-year campaign is that more people with depression, in all countries, seek and get help, IRNA reported.

A large number of people remain in the dark regarding their mental health status. Many of those with depression are not aware of the signs and symptoms, or the existing options for treatment. In a nationwide survey by the Health Ministry, 67% of the population said they never sought professional assistance for depression, assuming that it would end eventually on its own.

“It is [also] the duty of the national media to keep the people abreast of new as well as existing health issues, and how to prevent, control, or treat them,” Hashemi underlined.

It was yet another instance where the health minister has berated the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting for failing to fulfill its duty in disseminating edifying content for the masses. The state broadcaster that has long been under the strong criticism of independent observers and audiences has also attracted the chagrin of President Hassan Rouhani on more occasions than one.

Pointing to a number of issues affecting a person’s mental wellbeing including hopelessness, Hashemi said politicians must be careful about the promises they make and whether or not it is in the government’s ability to deliver. His statements come ahead of the campaigns for the upcoming presidential elections slated for May.

“Our society has a large number of people suffering from psychological problems, but politicians turn a blind eye to the issue and forget how vulnerable households have become [in the face of economic and social challenges] that  only aggravates the situation.”

“A society’s overall health depends not only on physical wellbeing, but also on mental wellness.”

  Acknowledgment is Key

On top of genetic factors, unemployment, loss of loved ones, unpredictable incidents, substance abuse, and urbanization are among factors that can trigger or exacerbate depression, the minister added.

“We should not deny the fact that we have numerous problems in this regard, but this does not mean that these problems cannot be prevented or resolved.”

According to Health Ministry data, provinces of Tehran, Fars, Isfahan, and Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari have the highest depression rates in the country, while Gilan and Yazd provinces have the lowest.

Hashemi also touched on the issue of suicide, saying that it is intertwined with depression. Based on available data, suicide growth rate has slightly declined in Iran.

The rate of psychological disorders in 15-64 year-old Iranians is 23.6%, 12.7% of whom (6.4 million) are living with depression and 2.2% with severe depression. Pregnant women and those older than 60 are at higher risk of developing the condition.

Globally, the rate of depression has increased by 50% over the past two decades; studies and figures show that depression is now burdening nearly 350 million in the world, he said.

Rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70% in the past quarter century.

As per the report of a study conducted by an international team working with the WHO’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative, depression was estimated to have its highest prevalence in high-income countries, including France (21%) and the US (19%). Some of the lowest rates in this category were in low- to middle-income countries like Mexico (8%) and China (6.5%).

The WHO also says that mental illnesses are the leading causes of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide, accounting for 37% of healthy years lost from NCDs. Depression alone accounts for one-third of this disability.

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