It was a Wednesday evening and I was Skyping with one of my team members to complete a project for an online course we had both enrolled in. In a previous mail she mentioned that she would be travelling and visiting family the previous weekend. So, to start the call, I asked how her holiday was. "Oh no, it was no break, really. My parents have some mental health issues and it was more of a babysitting situation, unfortunately."
She said it without shame, without judgement and simply stated it matter-of-factly, but still acknowledged the challenges that come with such a situation. The World Health Organisation estimates that depression will be the biggest healthcare burden by 2030 and that it will be costing us $6 trillion globally in a mere 12 years.
The pace of life has been (and is still) increasing, technology has changed (and is changing) how we live and work and function and our world is much more uncertain and unpredictable than before. It's no surprise therefore that the number of people suffering from depression increased 18% between 2005 and 2015. All three factors will continue to play a role going forward, but I expect the mental health challenge will grow, especially as we're using more and more tech, but only figuring out the implications as we go along. We've experienced the sleep disorders that come from entertaining Instagram's infinity scroll right before bed time; there's the story of the boy who needed bowel surgery after prioritising online gaming rather than toilet breaks, and then the tragic stories of children who took their own lives after their personal messages or photos were shared with the whole class or school.
TV series like 13 Reasons Why are a start, but I think we'll need to open up the everyday conversations and be more accommodating and understanding in our schools, workplaces, shopping malls and public spaces. Depression is not some kind of H1N1 [insert animal] virus for which pharma companies still need to find a cure. It's a treatable disease, but if intervention is delayed or if there is none at all, then it becomes so much harder to get back to a point of equilibrium.
Why should businesses and governments care? The (lost) productivity cost is huge. Why should entrepreneurs care? It's a massive and crucial area in need of innovation. Why should you care? The next person who needs help might be your brother, grandmother, colleague or even...you.
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