World Concerns

INITIATIVE

THIS YEAR'S INTERNATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH AGENDA: ERASING THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS

Depression is as likely to affect a refugee in war-torn Kosovo as it is an office worker in the U.S. Despite new understandings about the disorder, along with the development of life-saving drugs to treat it, it's on the rise globally. According to research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental and neurological disorders like depression, epilepsy and Alzheimer's affect 400 million people around the world, and these numbers will surge even higher over the next 20 years.

It's a disturbing trend that WHO wants to reverse in 2001 with a yearlong campaign called "Stop Exclusion--Dare to Care."

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The campaign kicked off with a celebration in April, and is intended to reach people around the world through political initiatives, speeches and cultural activities, says Jose Miguel Barros Caldas de Almeida, Ph.D., the coordinator of mental health programs for the Pan American Health Organization.

Because of the staggering number of people affected by mental health disorders, Caldas de Almeida says, "Our idea is that the celebration will be carried out and developed throughout the whole year. On one hand, it's necessary to stop exclusion of people with mental health problems, but it's also necessary to actively use the effective treatments and interventions available today around the world."

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