World Mental Health Day in Tajikistan: WHO and Ministry of Health draw attention to support and treatment for people, suffering from depression

WHO/Tahmina Alimamedova

World Mental Health Day with the theme “Depression: a global crisis”, celebrated on 10 October this year, aimed to raise public awareness about mental health issues and  promote open discussion on depression as a major challenge to all health systems in the WHO European Region.

Although effective treatments for depression exist and are widely known, less than half of those affected in the world (in some countries, fewer than 10%) receive such treatments, due to either lack of resources and  trained health care providers, or social stigma associated with mental disorders as well as inaccurate assessment.

To celebrate World Mental Health Day in Tajikistan  and contribute to increasing public awareness of the population about depression , WHO Country office launched a wide media campaign:

  • broadcasting a prime time TV program about the depression and its importance in prevention and treatment
  • organizing an interactive awareness program on the main national radio channel with participation of mental health professionals, WHO experts and wide public, where people could address their problems, freely ask questions about depression, share their vision and ideas, as well as their personal stories

“Recently societies became aware of the problems related to mental health and this  process is global. Depression is treatable, but about 50% of major depressions in Tajikistan still go untreated. In many cases, patients do not know that they need to seek professional help. Usually it happens because there is no tradition in the country to seek help from professionals in case of emotional problems. People are trying to solve these problems alone. Seeking help from mental health experts (psychologists) is considered shameful. Therefore, it is very important to encourage people suffering from depression to seek professional advice and always consult doctors" -  underlined Dr Rahmonov, Deputy Minister of Health of Tajikistan. 

 WHO Country Office in Tajikistan provides technical assistance to the ministry in reforming mental health care. In line with this WHO initiated a series of measures aimed at strengthening the provision of medical services in mental health. Depression results from a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors, such as economic pressures, unemployment, disasters, and conflicts, and therefore complex intersectoral approach is required to fight it. Putting every effort and experience of the whole society across the sectors is important in promoting, strengthening and implementation of new plans, strategies and approaches for providing quality services in mental health. 

A meeting of partners and stakeholders was held on 17 October, which gathered representatives from the Ministry of Health, international organizations, state structures and mass media. They acknowledged that joined efforts could help to include fighting depression in the public health agenda as top priority and important milestone in strengthening of health systems and fighting non-communicable diseases.  It was also widely agreed that WHO support to countries in fighting stigma is crucial for increasing access to depression treatment. 

 Participants discussed:

  • challenges  in providing effective care, resources, trained health care providers, and overcoming social stigma associated with mental disorders
  •  importance of the early prevention, treatment and diagnosis of depression, considering situation in the country
  •  WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), and its  importance to help countries increasing services for people with mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders, through care provided by health workers
  • continuous cooperation of Ministry of Health and WHO/Europe in the area of mental health

After the meeting participants visited newly opened Dushanbe Crisis center. This center under the auspices of the Ministry of Health will provide necessary psychological assistance and medical services to the patients in need.