Few areas of public health are as neglected as mental health – i.e., according to the World Health Organisation. Over 1 billion people around the world live with at least one mental health disorder. The situation only gets worse amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis that has disrupted nearly every facet of society from sources of livelihood to social structures.
These factors make this year’s (2020) World Mental Health Day an important opportunity to reflect on mental health as a global problem that demands action. But first; what is the World Mental Health Day and why is it observed?
World Mental Health Day in a Nutshell
Since 1992, the world has been observing the World Mental Health Day annually on October 10th. The activity was the initiative of Richard Hunter, former Deputy Secretary of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH).
Each year often has a theme that sets the direction of action by individuals and organisations around the globe. According to the World Federation for Mental Health, this year’s theme is “mental health for all.” It’s a day to look at what we need to do in order to improve mental health for all—including facilitating greater access to health care and stepping up investment in public health.
Drawing on a message by Dr Ingrid Daniels, current President of the WFMH, “Mental health is a human right – it’s time that mental health is available for all. Quality, accessible primary health care is the foundation for universal health coverage and is urgently required as the world grapples with the current health emergency. We therefore need to make mental health a reality for all – for everyone, everywhere.”
Wondering why we need to facilitate mental health for all? You only need to look at the global state of mental health to understand the urgency.
The Worrying State of Neglect in Mental Health Care
Did you know that 1 in every 4 people (around 450 million) struggle with a known mental health disorder at one time in their lives? In the U.K., this translates to 1 family member in every two households of approximately 2 people.
Despite the relatively high and increasing prevalence of mental health issues, the World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that over 60% of people with a diagnosable mental health disorder do not seek professional help. This gap in healthcare is attributed to neglect, discrimination, stigma, and little understanding.
"Mental illness is not a personal failure. In fact, if there is failure, it is to be found in the way we have responded to people with mental and brain disorders,"
—Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Director-General of WHO
The problem of neglect in mental health care is particularly concerning in low- and middle- income nations—whereby more than 7 in every 10 people with mental health problems don’t have access to health care for their conditions.
The UK is not an exception to the global mental health problem. According to the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) highlighted by the NHS, the number of Brits reporting symptoms and those diagnosed with mental health disorders has been going up in the last few decades. Yet, only 1 in every 8 adults in the UK seeks and receives any kind of professional mental health care.
To make matters worse, a 2019 report by the UK Office for National Statistics notes that there’s been a clear increase in cases of self-harm and the number of suicide deaths. This suggests that people in the UK may be having a hard time coping with mental health issues.
The takeaway from these statistics is that we need to bridge the gap and prioritize mental health care for all. It’s about time each one of us contributes to addressing this global problem.
It’s Time to Act – Using the World Mental Health Day as a Catalyst
We can only achieve sustainable global growth if the population is healthy and capable of contributing to society. In fact, a study published in Lancet Psychiatry notes that spending $1 to improve treatment for common mental health issues like depression and anxiety, brings back $4—owing to the improved ability to work and better health.
So, how can we improve the mental health of all—in line with this year’s theme for the World Mental Health Day on October 10? On a larger scale, some measures include.
· Implementation of measures to encourage and improve access to mental health care.
· Promoting collaboration among multiple stakeholders to advance both global and local efforts.
· Increasing the number and competence of mental health experts at the community-level.
· Creating and enforcing policies to reduce the risk of mental health problems and enable early diagnosis.
· Adopting improved standards of care for people seeking mental healthcare.
But on a smaller scale (i.e., everyday actions by ordinary people), the best we can do is to understand some effective approaches to promoting mental health in our communities.
This includes asking for help, promoting awareness, developing support mechanisms, engaging in healthy physical activity, encouraging positive thought, and early childhood intervention to cultivating emotional intelligence
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.”
In light of the World Mental Health Day and our dedication to promoting the mental health of young people, Forever Young People is committed to offering a helping hand to anyone going through a hard time. We offer personalised and bespoke coaching to facilitate your overall well-being. This includes support in stress management trauma, anxiety, self-esteem, and several other personality or mental health challenges.
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