"Depression and anxiety have long been seen as Western afflictions,
diseases of the affluent. But new studies find that they are just as
common in poor countries, with rates up to 20 percent in a given year.
Researchers say that even in places with very poor people, the
ailments require urgent attention. Severe depression can be as
disabling as physical diseases like malaria, the researchers say, and
can have serious economic effects. If a subsistence farmer is so
depressed that he cannot get out of bed, neither he nor his children
are likely to eat.
In India, as in much of the developing world, depression and anxiety
are rarely diagnosed or treated. With a population of more than one
billion, India has fewer than 4,000 psychiatrists, one-tenth the
United States total. Because most psychiatrists are clustered in a few
urban areas, the problem is much worse elsewhere.
As a result, most Indians with mental illness go untreated, especially
in poor and rural areas. "There is a huge treatment gap for people
with depression," said Dr. Vikram Patel of the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the psychiatrist who began the Siolim
project. "In most places in the developing world, 80 percent to 90
percent of people with severe depression don't receive adequate