Depression: Let's talk

07 April 2017 -Today is World Health Day. The theme for this year is ‘Depression: Let’s talk’. Depression is common in people with dementia, a condition that affects almost 50 million people worldwide. Depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide.

In every country, depression is a serious illness that can cause a person with dementia or their care partner to be less likely to share their experience or seek support, making the role of Alzheimer associations even more important. Our partners Dementia Alliance International also offer free membership and online support groups for those affected by dementia, who are able to speak openly about their experiences of depression, and receive advice from others on how to cope. Support and training for care partners, provided by Alzheimer associations in many countries, may also help to lower the risk of depression.

Depression and dementia share a number of symptoms, such as social withdrawal, apathy or trouble concentrating. The nature of the relationship between depression and dementia is not clear, but depression in later life may develop as an early symptom of dementia.

Most people with dementia live in low and middle income countries, where as few as 10% of individuals receive a diagnosis. In high income countries, this number is estimated to be less than 50%. Evidence suggests that when people with dementia and their families are well prepared and supported, initial feelings of shock, anger and grief are balanced by a sense of reassurance and empowerment, that may help reduce the likelihood of developing depression.

Like dementia, the stigma attached to mental health, including depression, continues to represent an obstacle to diagnosis and may prevent individuals with either or both conditions from seeking the support they need. Challenging social stigma is essential and can improve the quality of life for people living with dementia and for their care partners everywhere. 

Dementia friendly communities around the world actively encourage the inclusion of, empowerment and respect for people living with dementia in the community, and as such may help address feelings of loneliness and helplessness that can lead to or accompany depression.

If you are worried about developing dementia or want to learn more about support for depression and dementia, please contact the Alzheimer association in your country or Dementia Alliance International.

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