While the COVID-19 is still grasping the attention of the world, and the war in Ukraine has brought about new worries concerning the security in Europe, another silent pandemic has been rising and gaining strength: The widespread mental health pandemic.

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  After decades of moderate progress, it is time to make access to adequate treatment and care, engagement of patients’ families, and management of depression a real priority in Europe.

Depression is affecting more people, from children and adolescents to elderly, who have endured more than two years of isolation and uncertainty, but the healthcare systems in Central Europe and the Baltics (CE&B) are far from being prepared to offer them adequate support. According to the Lancet-World Psychiatric Association Commission, depression is the most common mental health condition impacting people today. The WHO estimates that around 3.8% of the population are affected by it worldwide, including 5% among adults and almost 6% among adults older than 60 years.

Yet, according to Lancet–World Psychiatric Association Commission study, too few people in communities, governments, and the health sector understand or acknowledge depression as distinct from other troubles that people face. Not enough is done to avoid and alleviate the suffering and disadvantages linked with depression, and few governments acknowledge the brake that depression places on social and economic development.

As the GLOBSEC 2022 Bratislava Forum will focus on tackling pivotal challenges of today’s world, including strengthening resilience of society, discussion around mental health issues will feature prominently in the Forum’s health agenda. A panel of top regional experts will discuss the results of 10 national Depression Scorecard reports* from CE&B countries and the Patient Memorandum on Depression focusing on 4 main areas:

  • Joined-up and comprehensive depression services,
  • Data to drive improvements in depression care,
  • Engaging and empowering people with depression
  • Harnessing technology to improve access to care.

The Patient Memorandum will be presented by a Head of patient association from a CE&B country to the most relevant policy makers, giving them an opportunity to make a pledge to the public to take a more comprehensive interest in the patients´ needs in the field of depression. “The people who have experienced depression, as well as their families are not being heard in our country, and even if they are, the state strategy for mental health care is not being determined by their needs or opinions,” said Andrej Vrsansky, director of the League for Mental Health, the biggest Slovak patient organisation. “It is necessary to change this paradigm, so that we can build a modern system of care for mental health, based on supporting community and on prevention,” he added.

Despite the obvious need, many countries are failing to provide a proper response to depression. “Mental health care has long been neglected and under-funded, and unmet need for care is still high,“ stated OECD in their 2021 Mental Health Systems report. While the OECD countries spend on average 6-7% of overall health expenditure on mental health, many CE&B countries do not reach these numbers. Moreover, 56% of people with depression in OECD do not seek medical care, so the official statistics stay gravely underreported in all countries.

The Depression Scorecard project is bringing the spotlight on depression care in the CE&B region, calling upon the stakeholders to make patient care and access to high quality system of depression management their priority.

The research project, carried out over the past 6 months in cooperation with more than 40 top healthcare experts and up to 20 patient organisations in the region, aims to inspire the development of appropriate public policies and treatment algorithms to tackle this rising socio-economic problem and reduce the burden of depression through concerted actions.

Reducing the burden of the depression in societies, as well as on country budgets, requires a united action by all relevant stakeholders – policy and decision makers, healthcare professionals, patient representatives and advocates and other experts. Their cooperation and understanding of patient´s needs, is the first step on the road to a better management of depression in every country.

*The Depression Scorecard was initiated and funded by the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson

https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-covid-19-pandemic-triggers-25-increase-in-prevalence-of-anxiety-and-depression-worldwide

https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-2019-nCoV-Sci_Brief-Mental_health-2022.1

Time for united action on depression: a Lancet–World Psychiatric Association Commission. Lancet 2022; 399: 957–1022  https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/united-action-on-depression Published Online: February 15, 2022

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression