World Health Day 2017: Mental health of children in Greece is at stake


This year’s World Health Day is dedicated to depression, an extremely widespread mental health disease. It is estimated that nowadays, depression affects more than 300 million people, of all ages, from all walks of life and in all countries.

However, the risk of becoming depressed is greater for people experiencing difficult or traumatic life events such as unemployment, poverty, abuse, etc., while it is a definitive fact that there is a spike in the disease in times of economic crisis. During these times a notable rise in suicide rates has been observed. As far as Greece is concerned, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority, results of the 2014 Health Survey demonstrate that 4.7% of the population indicated that they suffer from depression. This points to a great increase (80.8%) in numbers when compared to 2009 (2.9% of the population).

Concerning children, who form one of the most sensitive social groups, the deprivation of basic material goods directly affects not only their physical but also their emotional well-being.
Prolepsis Institute highlights the risks to mental well-being that thousands of children from socioeconomically vulnerable families in Greece are facing. Fear, sadness, anger, and anxiety about the future constitute the prevalent emotions for thousands of children in crisis-ridden Greece. The evidence gathered by Prolepsis Institute from schools participating in the Food Aid and Promotion of Healthy Nutrition Program – DIATROFI at the start of the 2015-2016 school year highlights the gravity of the situation and how the disastrous impact of the prolonged crisis jeopardizes the health and future of children. Among children attending these schools, 28% feel sadness, 38% feel anger, 17% worry about what will happen to them in the future, and one out of five are constantly fearful. Emotional health disorders manifest in 27.5% of students attending schools of the DIATROFI Program.

Students’ emotional health seems to be related to food insecurity and the standard of living. More specifically, in families affected by food insecurity, 33% of students develop emotional health disorders, while in families in a state of food security, the respective percentage of students is 19.9%. In families characterized by a low living standard, the percentage of students facing emotional health disorders is 30.6%, while in families characterized by a high living standard it is 23.4%, respectively.

Quantitative and qualitative results collected from the long-standing implementation of the DIATROFI program in schools located in socioeconomically vulnerable areas, highlighted several benefits. Daily food provisions for everyone at school offers: an important and effective solution to the daily food needs of the children, allows for an indirect financial support for the families, and can provide a positive shift in the functions of everyday life, and by extension, to the children’s state of mind.

Teachers and parents describe to Prolepsis Institute the over-whelming emotions of joy the children experience with the everyday food provision: “The greatest reward for us is the joy the children express about the food and having the chance to eat a wholesome meal. They eagerly wait for it asking: what are we getting today? When there is yogurt with honey on the menu, they go crazy!” (Teacher testimony)

“Once I came at school and found the children eating during the big break. The scene was truly beautiful. They were sitting in groups drinking milk, eating fruits, talking and laughing… It was amazing to see the children coming together and socializing as a result of these meals”. (Teacher testimony)

Thanks to the school Food aid program, the state of mind of the students coming from the most socioeconomically vulnerable groups is getting more positive, concentration and attention in class is improving, and on the whole, students better respond and are more actively involved in their school lessons. Learn more about the multiple benefits of the DIATROFI Program here.



The World Health Organization (WHO) has symbolically designated April 7 of every year as World Health Day to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948. This year, the theme of World Health Day campaign is depression, a mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a general loss of interest, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks. Symptoms most often mentioned are the loss of energy, a change in appetite and sleeping, anxiety, reduced concentration, restlessness, indecisiveness, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness. 


Depression adversely affects relationships with family and friends, academic performance, the ability to earn a living and, by extension, society and health provision systems. At its worst manifestation, depression can lead to suicide, now, unfortunately, the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds with close to 800,000 people dying due to suicide every year.



Depression can be treated. It is, however, a rather complex disease, affecting many areas of an individual’s life (social, psychological, and biological) and as such, a multifaceted approach should be taken to manage it. Prevention programs have proven to be effective in reducing depression rates. Interventions at the community level are efficient in preventing depression both for children and their parents. School programs are geared towards improving the students’ mindset on personal issues preoccupying their mind. Interventions targeted for parents of children who face behavioral difficulties, reduce the parents’ levels of depression and as a result, positively benefit their children’s mental development. Moreover, programs promoting physical activity targeting senior individuals also positively impact the treatment of depression.
Learn more about the WHO’s information campaign “Depression: Let’s talk”, here: http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2017/en/