Updated on 14 October 2016
Associate Prof Ajeet B Singh, Founder & CEO, CNSDose.com
Singapore: The term mental illness strikes fear, embarrassment, and confusion. Yet mental illness is an untold opportunity in the 21st century. An opportunity to not only ease often silent suffering, but an opportunity to improve population productivity, and scale innovative health technologies. Chief among mental illness burdens is major depression.
Some 350 million people globally suffer from major depression. The World Health Organisation projects it will be the lead cause of global disability in developed nations by 2030. In the US alone it is estimated to cost US$210 billion dollars a year in health costs and lost productivity. In India mental illness will cost $6.2 trillion between 2013 and 2030, and cost China $27.8 trillion according to a 2015 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (The Economist Newspaper Ltd). Such metrics have catalysed many governments to prioritise mental health care, but Asia is at risk of lagging behind.
As Asia undergoes unprecedented socially transformational economic development, it is also 'inheriting' a western profile of illness. Higher work demands, reduced community via urbanisation, and poor life work balance, all key sociological drivers of deteriorating mental health in Asia.
Stress, adversity, and feeling sad from time to time, are all normal phenomena. In fact, they are necessary to build resilience and character. But in major depression, prolonged despair and apathy take over, leading to dark thoughts and sustained poor productivity. In the West, the problem is now so common that one in ten adults takes antidepressants!
The West has been surprisingly slow to prioritise depression care. Only in recent years have western nations strategically focussed on tackling stigma and mental illness. In 2014 the issues took centre stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, after the forum commissioned a study that identified mental illness as the single most costly health issue, and a major barrier to development and productivity.