What is World Mental Health Day?
World Mental Health Day is observed every year on the 10th of October. World Mental Health Day raises awareness about mental health, to mobilise efforts to support people experiencing mental health issues, and to remove the stigma around mental health.
Why is World Mental Health Day important?
The way we feel, think, and behave is directly influenced by our mental health. Our physical health is also directly impacted by our mental health. Our surroundings, family, friends, and workplace can play a role in improving or exacerbating our mental health. As such, it is crucial to promote an open and empathetic environment where mental health can be discussed without judgement or fear.
Although progress has been made when it comes to the acceptance and support available to people with mental health issues, there is still a lot about our global approach to mental health that needs to change.
World Mental Health Day seeks to highlight that mental health does not discriminate. Mental health issues can affect people of all ages, genders, and races. Yet, despite the prevalence of mental health, it remains one of the most overlooked forms of health in the world.
It is common for mental health issues to first present themselves during a person’s youth and adolescence. According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, around half of all mental health conditions are established by the age of 14 and 75% of them by the age of 24.
The WHO estimates that 1 in 7 teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19 suffer from mental health issues. In fact, a recent global survey conducted by the WHO found that almost 1 in 5 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 often feel depressed and have little interest in doing things.
More shockingly, suicide is the 5th most common cause of death in this age group, accounting for around 45,800 deaths each year. This figure tragically means that there is one death by suicide every 11 minutes.
The effect of mental health still disproportionately affects people from minority groups in a negative way. For example, Black people are still 4 times more likely to be sectioned than White people and LGBT+ people are more likely to feel suicidal and self-harm than non-LGBT+ people.
According to recent WHO data, people with mental health disorders can die up to 20 years earlier than the national average due to otherwise preventable physical conditions.
In many nations, people with varying degrees of mental health issues are significantly more likely to experience human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma.
This year, in the face of mounting social and economic inequalities, international conflicts, increasing violence, and ongoing public health emergencies, people’s mental health is being harshly challenged. World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity to reignite our efforts to improve and protect our mental health.
How has COVID-19 impacted mental health issues and access to mental health services?
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a global mental health crisis. COVID-19 has caused millions of people to experience both long-term and short-term stresses that they have never experienced before. The WHO’s recent figures estimate that during the first year of the pandemic, both anxiety and depression disorders increased by more than 25%.
It is fair to state that we have all experienced the emotional effects of the pandemic. That being said, it is important to recognise the diverse range of implications the pandemic has had on different groups of people in society.
For instance, the pandemic has shown itself to have placed an additional burden on women. This is because women have generally shouldered the responsibility of balancing childcare and work during lockdowns. Women also dominate fields like hospitality and retail that have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.
Young people have also been hit considerably hard by the pandemic. This is because many of them have had to undertake two years of online schooling, away from their peers and support networks outside of the home.
Young people generally occupy roles in some of the most affected industries and often have less financial cushioning than their adult counterparts. This has not only limited their ability to cover their necessities, but also impacted their choices around their future and education.
In the UK, the looming cost-of-living crisis is plunging thousands of families and individuals across the country into financial uncertainty and debt. This is coinciding with a period in which the services, expertise, and funding necessary for mental health support are decreasing. This has resulted in a widening gap in treatment for mental health issues between people with low incomes and those high incomes.
World Mental Health Day reminds us that we can all play a role in helping those who may be suffering from mental health issues. We can offer them a non-judgemental ear to listen to their struggles, encourage them to visit their local GP, access online mental health resources, or even offer to hang out on days that they feel particularly low.
While we continue to fight for better services and a widespread change of attitudes, we should remember that a little bit of kindness can go a long way in helping those who are struggling.
Image by Alexandre Guimont.