According to a recent statement by the new American Heart Association (AHA), major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder should be recognized as moderate risk factors for atherosclerosis and early cardiovascular disease. 
In 2011, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute identified four conditions (chronic inflammatory disease, human immunodeficiency virus, Kawasaki disease, and nephritic syndrome) that lead youths to a mild risk of developing cardiovascular disease before they reach 30. 
The statement released a few days ago, reveals that depression and bipolar disorder meet the same criteria as these conditions. Moreover, these two behavioural disorders are more widespread than the previous mentioned conditions combined.
These studies showed evidence of a link between paediatric depression and bipolar disorder with premature cardiovascular mortality. Cardiovascular risk factors for these teens include obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. According to the statement, depression and bipolar disorder are the first- and fourth-most disabling conditions, among adolescents worldwide.
After the report had been unveiled, researchers from schools around the U.S. and Canada looked at existing studies on mood disorders in people under the age of 30. Researchers looked specifically into youths suffering from depression or bipolar disorder with cardiovascular markers such as high pressure and cholesterol. They found a significant connection between having depression or bipolar disorder and increased odds of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity (especially belly fat), type 2 diabetes, and hardening of the arteries. 
This discovery denotes that healthcare providers should track physical activity levels and food intake as well as metabolic monitoring is crucial for these young patients as a preventive measure.
However, to monitor cardiovascular markers, physical activity and food intake, of thousands of young patients who also suffer from mental illness is not an easy task. Although, there are hundreds of smartphone applications tracking physical activity and counting calories, these apps are personal, and clinicians do not have access to an individual’s data. Nevertheless, with the Monsenso mobile health (mHealth) solution, this cumbersome task becomes easy and achievable.
The Monsenso mHealth solution enables clinicians to access a patient’s data on a daily basis. Every day, youths would be reminded to fill in a self-assessment with important information that could include the number of hours they slept, the amount of unhealthy food they have eaten, and if they realized any physical activity throughout their day. Additionally, the smartphone can also collect physical activity and mobility data, based on the smartphone’s inbuilt accelerometer and GPS locator.
The Monsenso mHealth solution, especially designed to monitor behavioural data of patients suffering from mental illness, can in this way help clinicians monitor any unhealthy habits of patients with risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Further, with the customisable action plans, each youth could follow “contingency plans” if they experience some symptoms related to their mental illness or if they have engaged in unhealthy activities. For example, a special trigger could set up if a youth has indulged in unhealthy food for several days in a row, or has had a low level of physical activity. The action plan listed for this trigger could then encourage individuals to engage in physical activities and and to try to avoid sugar and fat during the upcoming week.
 Browser,D Medscape. Depression, Bipolar Disorder in Teens are CVD Risk Factors: AHA (2015, August 10) http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/849312
 American Heart Association. Young people with mood disorders have increased risk of developing early cardiovascular disease (2015, August 11)
 Walton, A Forbes. Teens with depression, bipolar disorder, should be screened for heart disease, experts say. (2015, August 11) http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/08/11/depressed-teens-may-be-at-higher-risk-for-heart-disease/
Goldstein BI, Carnethon MR, Matthews KA, et al. Major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder predispose youth to accelerated atherosclerosis and early cardiovascular disease. Circulation 2015.
“Making Mental Health a Global Priority” is a two-day high-level meeting hosted by the World Bank Group and World Health Organization (WHO) with the objective to include mental health as a global priority. This blog post is based on the report published after the meeting.
Mental health a global priority
- Studies estimate that at least 10% of the world’s population is affected by mental illness
- 20% of children and adolescents suffer from some type of mental disorder
- Mental disorders account for 30% of the non-fatal disease burden worldwide and 10% of the overall burden of disease, including death and disability
It is a known fact that two of the most common mental disorders, anxiety and depression, respond well to treatment. However, due to a lack of funding, these disorders are not treated in most cases. For governments and healthcare authorities, investing in the treatment of mental illness may seem questionable; nevertheless, mental disorders have many ripple effects, including a strong economic impact on society. In fact, mental disorders account for almost one in three years lived with disability globally. Additionally, there is a strong link between mental disorders and potentially fatal conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, HIV and obesity.
A recent analysis shows that treating anxiety and depression is a cost-effective way to promote well-being and prosperity in a community – and that failure to be treated can contribute to impoverishment at a household level and to reduced economic growth and social well-being at a national level.
To tackle today’s mental health challenges, governments and international development partners should work together to fund cost-effective alternatives to treat mental health. This funding will provide a strong return on investment, with scale-up leading to good returns in restored productivity as well as improved health.
Action plans proposed by the World Bank and WHO
1. A new mental health system
The effective care of depression and anxiety requires a comprehensive mental health system including governance, healthcare institutions and community settings to endorse holistic mental health plans. Mental health planners and policy makers need to develop, through public awareness and community engagement, care delivery systems that are sensitive to local social, economic, and cultural contexts; this will ensure that services are appropriately sought out and utilized.
2. Integrated care for depression in primary, maternal, and paediatric care
In addition to its impact on physical health, depression can affect the management of chronic co-occurring diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Collaborative care—an evidence-based approach to care for chronic illness applied in primary care settings—guides the effective use of resources for delivery of quality mental health care. It emerges as an effective way to address co-morbid conditions and commonly co-occurring risk factors while improving overall health outcomes. Collaborative care emphasizes systematic identification of patients, self-care, and active care management by clinical providers, blended with other medical, mental health, and community supports.
Anxiety and depression also play large roles in the health of expectant and new mothers and their children. A study conducted in 2007 revealed that more than 50% of pregnant women suffer from anxiety and more than 37% suffer from depression. Antenatal depression can increase the likelihood of preterm birth, low birth weight, and cognitive disturbances. In addition, 10-15% of new mothers suffer from post-partum depression. Studies have shown that antenatal and postnatal interventions are effective in reducing depression and anxiety, which improves infant outcomes.
Children and young adults are also affected by depression and anxiety, which causes a negative effect on their ability to learn and study. Besides, since 75% of all mental disorders have a first onset by the age of 18-24, integrating mental health treatment into standard paediatric health care would not only improve students’ learning outcomes, it would also allow children and young adults to obtain treatment at an early stage.
3. Information and communications technology (ICT)-based platforms
ICT-based platforms, such as the one offered by Monsenso, provide an alternative method of mental health care delivery when resources are scarce, while also addressing long-standing obstacles in mental health delivery, such as transportation barriers, stigma associated with visiting mental health clinics, clinician shortages and high costs.
These platforms, especially mobile mental health interventions, can offer remote screening, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment; remote training for non-specialist healthcare workers; and can be used to develop and deliver highly specific, contextualized interventions.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been successfully implemented through information technology platforms, demonstrating improvement in depressive symptoms, reduced costs, patient acceptance and enhanced primary care workflow. In addition, patient participation is rapidly expanding in peer-to-peer social networks where patients can access around the clock support with demonstrable improvements in depression symptoms.
4. Platforms outside the health sector
Stigma associated with mental disorders can result in social isolation, low self-esteem, and limited chances in education, employment, and housing. Therefore, anti-stigma campaigns are powerful tools to confront mental disorders.
The key strength of school-based health screening and care is that it maximises outreach in school age children and adolescents. The potential benefits include the healthy development of students, improved academic performance, and opportunities to integrate school and clinic-based services.
There is a huge amount of evidence that investing in workplace wellness programs is good for employees and companies.
Workplace mental health interventions can be centred on treatment or mental health promotion such as cognitive-behavioural approaches targeting stress reduction. Organizational-level workplace interventions can include policies that address prevention and early intervention.
Interventions related to conflicts and natural disasters
Conflict exposes civilian populations and refugees to violence and high levels of stress, resulting in dramatic rises in mental illness that can continue for decades after armed conflict has ceased. Therefore, part of the rebuilding efforts in post-conflict and post-disaster societies should include building mental health services that are well integrated into primary care and public health efforts.
Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority. World Bank and World Health Organization. 2016