“Mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and make a contribution to the community,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). On October 10th – World Mental Health Day – people all around the globe raise awareness on the importance of mental health with the mission to educate others.
This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’, highlighting unequal access to mental health care that for a large part is due to governmental and public responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. These past 18 months have been a rollercoaster and while the world seems to be bouncing back (albeit slowly), the damage has been done, and not just on a physical level.
According to a recent article, before COVID-19 emerged “an estimated 150 million people in the WHO European Region suffered from a mental health condition, with only a small minority receiving any treatment.” Researchers have found that In 2020, cases of anxiety and depression around the world increased dramatically, with an estimated 129 million extra cases of anxiety and depression. Moreover, only 51% of the WHO’s 194 Member States reported that their mental health policy or plan was in line with international and regional human rights instruments – this compared to their intended target of 80%.
What are some of the reasons that triggered anxiety and depression during the pandemic?
- The fear of getting infected or losing someone who got infected
- Missing out on important milestones or having to postpone them (think weddings, family gatherings, graduation)
- Avoiding in-person interaction due to restrictions
- Fear of losing a job – or actually losing it
- The lack of routine or work-life balance
Now more than ever there is a pressing need to focus on health beyond the physical. Currently, mental health has been pushed back to less of a priority when compared to treating and trying to prevent COVID-19. This doesn’t even include dealing with the stigma that usually accompanies mental health disorders.
Who can help, then? Anyone! From government officials allocating budget to the treatment of mental health disorders, to companies implementing policies that ensure the well-being of their employees, to friends and family members being more vigilant and aware for those who are alone and don’t have someone to fall back on.
Today is a good day to start changing our approach towards mental healthcare.
Read more about World Mental Health Day and the World Health Organization’s global campaign on their website.