“One does not have to suffer in silence”
World Mental Health Day is celebrated on October 10 throughout the world to promote global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. The reason to start world mental health day was to raise awareness of mental health issues. It provides an opportunity for all mental health workers to talk about their work. It was celebrated for the first time in 1992 as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health by then-Deputy Secretary-General Richard Hunter.
The day did not have a specific theme until 1994 but, at the suggestion of Secretary-General Eugene Brody, a theme was used for the first time. The day had become a relevant occasion for interested government departments, organizations and, committed individuals to arrange programs to focus on aspects of mental health care within three years. WHO, which supports world mental health day, raises awareness on mental health issues using its strong relationships with ministries across the globe. Jackie Doyle Price was appointed by Prime minister Theresa May as UK’s first suicide prevention minister in 2018.
Each year, millions of people suffer from mental illnesses but go untreated due to the social stigma attached to seek professional help. Anyone around you could be suffering from it, whether it’s your teacher, friend, neighbour or close family member. Untreated mental health issues often contribute to lower quality of life, performance decline in school and work, difficulty maintaining close relationships and higher medical expenses. Even though the perception of mental illness has improved over the past few decades, there are still negative stereotypes attached to them. This stigma is mainly due to the media we consume and the lack of education.
Mental health awareness is so important, especially during this time where the world is suffering from the effects of a global pandemic. Experts say that mental health issues have increased with the constant lockdowns, fear of contracting the virus and death of loved ones without saying goodbye. Humans are social animals by nature so, when lockdowns are imposed it takes away that aspect which often leads people to feel ‘incomplete’. There have been massive changes to the lifestyles of many, with video calls being the new norm. Workers are anxious about losing their jobs with an economic crisis sweeping over the world and, students have great uncertainty about their exam schedules. For people with already pre-existing mental health issues, they are facing more social isolation, which psychologists say is dangerous.
The effects of the pandemic on children and adolescents are not yet known but, psychologists say that consequences will be noticeable in the long term. Online school proves to be a challenge faced by many students, as the switch between offline and online classes is not an easy one. Extended screen times could be harmful to health and, coupled with their limited contact with their friends and family, could lead to feelings of isolation. For people in the workforce, job uncertainty in a climate where economic decline is ongoing can lead to stressful thoughts. Living in isolation has already proved to be harmful to the mental health of the elderly.
Investment in mental health programmes should take place in the coming months and years by governments around the globe. As individuals, we can support those around us by talking to them and letting them know that we will always be there for them. Treating those around us with respect and kindness is a way to bring positivity into someone’s life, as we never know what someone is going through. Maybe that smile you gave that random stranger brightened up their day or, reaching out to an old friend made them feel not so isolated. Awareness needs to be spread about mental health and how to take care of it. We can do this by learning more about mental health to provide support to those in our communities. We must make sure that the discussion about mental health should be done throughout the year and not just on one specific day!