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This is a very insightful and timely article. Depression is rapidly becoming a global health crisis, and very few people outside academia are aware of this extremely serious situation. According to estimates from the World Health Organization, depression is expected to be at the second place in the ranking of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY, a measure of global disease burden) by 2020. It already is the leading causes of disability as measured by Years Lived with Disability (YLDs). But what may get lost in the numbers is the human experience of this disease. I remember reading an interesting description of depression from a writer who was herself coping with the condition. She described depression as ‘not a presence of negative emotions, but an absence of any emotions.’ This description makes me see how depression can a debilitating affliction. I can imagine that the condition must get severely exacerbated if patients do not seek or have access to medical attention and societal support. An important reason patients do not seek medical attention is the stigma associated with mental health conditions. It is important that public health infrastructure and healthcare funding be deployed to initiate public conversations and improve understanding of these conditions. On your point about family support for mental health patients, I’ll mention an interesting NPR podcast I heard few months back. The podcast featured interviews with residents of the town of Geel in Belgium. This town has pioneered a de-institutionalised method of care for mental health patients. The townspeople of Geel host mental health patients at their homes. The patients are treated as family guests with some special needs. The podcast highlights several success stories of this simple but evidently very effective arrangement. The main point of the program is to move mental health patients away from their families. The emotional involvement of close family members evidently impedes the recovery of these patients. On the other hand, institutionalization is often traumatic and may even be counterproductive. The emotionally distant, but still gentle and considerate care from strangers apparently dramatically improves health outcomes.

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