Wednesday, October 13, 1999 Published at 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Warning over millennium blues
Many people feel depressed and suicidal at New Year
Millions of people around the world may spend a miserable New Year, exacerbated by millennium hype, a charity is warning.
The Depression Alliance says millennium fever could prompt a big rise in depression as the pressures mount up on people to have fun.
It is also worried that media coverage of the millennium bug has created a feeling of impending doom.
The charity held a press conference to highlight its fears on Wednesday and to emphasise the importance of developing good mental health.
The key speaker was celebrity psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud.
The alliance is promoting workshops which aim at alleviating depression and promoting good mental health.
Its Out of the Blue workshops try to make people aware that they can do more to control their lives than they might think, for example, by stressing the importance of people thinking positively about themselves and setting themselves realistic goals.
The alliance hopes to raise money to set up a national depression helpline and raise awareness of the illness which is estimated to cost the UK £8bn a year in medication, benefits and lost working days.
Mental health experts warn that the New Year usually sees an increase in depression, other forms of mental illness and suicide.
The Samaritans say the number of calls they receive increases by an average of 8% at this time of year.
The Samaritans is launching a big suicide awareness campaign in the lead-up to Christmas.
A spokeswoman said: "There is a lot of hype about the millennium and expectations rise since it is seen as the end of an era and the beginning of another.
"If things are not going right and people are already depressed and anxious about what the New Year could bring, this could make them much worse."
She added that this year, unlike others, agencies which could offer people support are likely to be closed for a longer period.
But she said Samaritans helpline would be open 24 hours a day every day.
A spokesman for the Depression Alliance said: "The millennium celebrations are obviously going to be even bigger than a normal New Year period, and we know that will inevitably lead to more cases of depression.
"We need to tackle this head on, now, and be prepared to help these people."
It is estimated that some four million people in the UK suffer from depression.
The World Health Organization says depression could be the second most burdensome illness in the world by the year 2020.