Depression is a common illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.

In addition, there may be a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or even committing suicide.

Depending on the number and severity of symptoms, a depressive episode can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. There are effective treatments for depression.

WHO estimates that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Globally, the total number of people with depression was estimated to exceed 300 million in 2015, equivalent to 4.3% of the world’s population. Depression is ranked as the single largest contributor to global disability (7.5% of all years lived with disability in 2015). At its worst, depression can lead to suicide, over 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

In India, the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 reveals that nearly 15% Indian adults need active intervention for one or more mental health issues and one in 20 Indians suffers from depression. It is estimated that in 2012, India had over 258,000 suicides, with the age-group of 15-49 years being most affected.

The Indian government’s commitment is reflected in the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP), which encompasses life skills training and counselling in educational institutions, workplace stress management and suicide prevention services, among others.