Global depression numbers surged in past decade: WHO

Cases of depression have ballooned almost 20 percent in a decade, making the debilitating disorder linked to suicide the leading cause of disability worldwide, the World Health Organization says.

By 2015, the number of people globally living with depression, according to a revised definition, had reached 322 million, up 18.4 percent since 2005, the UN agency said on Thursday.

"These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to rethink their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves," WHO chief Margaret Chan said in a statement.

According to the agency's definition, depression is more than just a bout of the blues.

It is a "persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities for two weeks or more."

Lack of energy, shifts in appetite or sleep patterns, substance abuse, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and thoughts of self-harm or suicide are also common, and can wreak havoc on entire families.

The drop in productivity, and other medical conditions often linked to depression, also takes a financial toll, with the global cost estimated at $1 trillion annually, the WHO said.

Even in the most developed countries, around half of people suffering from depression are not diagnosed or treated, and the percentage soars to between 80 and 90 percent in less developed nations.

According to the WHO, every dollar invested in improving access to treatment leads to a return of $4 in better health and productivity.

About 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, amounting to one suicide every four seconds.

(Source: AFP)



Dutch doctors against 'life complete' assisted suicide

Medical professionals in the Netherlands have strongly criticized a proposed law that would allow people who believe they have lived their lives to the fullest and have nothing more to gain to seek assisted death.

The Netherlands has already legalized euthanasia, which is professionally assisted suicide of a person who is extremely ill to stop further suffering.

The proposal aims to broaden the existing euthanasia law, making it practically easier for those who feel their lives are complete to end their physical existence.

"Such a radical proposal is not desirable for practical reasons and for reasons of principle," the Dutch Doctors Federation, representing some 59,000 practitioners and students, said in a statement late Wednesday.

The federation argued that passing another law alongside the euthanasia law will lead to an increase in "the feeling of vulnerability among elderly people and the stigmatization of old age."

Instead of broadening the euthanasia law, it said, efforts should be made to find "solutions which address the feeling of uselessness among the elderly."

The federation has sent its comments to the four main political parties in the country which are currently negotiating to form a coalition government.

In October, the outgoing government proposed broadening the euthanasia law to give elderly people, who are not sick but feel their lives are complete, the right to assisted suicide.

It would only apply to those who "no longer see any possibility of giving their life meaning, deeply feel their loss of independence, and remain isolated or lonely perhaps because they have lost a loved one," the Dutch health and justice ministers said in a letter to parliament.

The Liberal VVD party which won the most seats in March 15 elections as well as the progressive D66 and the ecologist GroenLinks have voiced support for the law. While the Christian Democratic Appeal is against it, the party said it would not be a "deal-breaker" in the talks.

In 2002, the Netherlands and neighboring Belgium legalized euthanasia.

All the main religions of the world have prohibited suicide, regarding it as a great sin. Critics blame feelings of existential emptiness and suicidal drives in the West on materialism and fading role of religion.



Hawaii judge blocks Trump's revised travel ban

A federal judge in the US state of Hawaii has halted President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, ruling that it is unconstitutional.

US District Judge Derrick Watson ruled on Wednesday evening that the state of Hawaii, in its legal challenge to Trump's executive order, had established that the law could not be enforced, hours before it was due to come into effect.

The judge ruled, citing several comments made by Trump, that the travel ban is, despite the administration’s denials, a Muslim ban. His ruling applies nationwide.

Judge Watson concluded in his ruling that the revised ban is in fact not all that different to the original one. “Based upon the current record available, however, the Court cannot find the actions taken during the interval between revoked Executive Order No. 13,769 and the new Executive Order to be ‘genuine changes in constitutionally significant conditions.’”

The court in Hawaii was the first to rule on several legal challenges against the travel ban, which targets people from six mainly Muslim countries.

Later on Wednesday, decisions were expected from federal courts in Washington state and Maryland.

A day after Trump signed the new executive order on March 6, attorneys for Hawaii filed their proposed revision in federal court, along with a motion asking that it be allowed to proceed.

The revised travel ban changed and replaced the original, more sweeping executive order issued on January 27 that caused chaos and protests at airports and was challenged in more than two dozen lawsuits across the US.

A federal judge in Seattle, Washington, blocked the first order, in a decision upheld by an appeals court in San Francisco, California.

The judge questioned the Trump administration's use of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US as a justification for the travel ban and said such measures must be “based in fact, as opposed to fiction.”

Trump’s new order maintained a 90-day ban on travel to the US by citizens of Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan, but excluded Iraq and applied the restriction only to new visa applicants. It also removed an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.



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