Ever since 1992, The World Health Organization has celebrated World Mental Health Day. That first time, on 10 October 1992 it was at the initiative of Deputy Secretary General Richard Hunter and the World Federation for Mental Health. The first few years the day had no specific theme other than general promotion of mental health advocacy and educating the public. In 2021, the theme for World Mental Health Day is Mental health care for all: let's make it a reality.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health. Mental Health services throughout the world for mental, neurological and substance use disorders have been significantly disrupted as well. All this makes it even more important to raise mental health awareness and improve the quality of mental health services.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community". There many categories which fall under the umbrella of mental and behavioural disorders and each category covers a range of mental illnesses.
There are several more common and well-known forms of mental disorders, such as depression. It is estimated that 5% of all adults globally suffer from depression, it is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Depression differs from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges.
Other well-known forms of mental disorders include dementia, eating disorders, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But there are many more and because they are less well known it can take a long time before people who are suffering are properly diagnosed.
World Mental Health day is about more than advocacy. It also provides an opportunity to empower people to look after their own mental health and to provide support for others. In September 2021, the WHO will launch a new edition of their Mental Health Atlas , which provides a clear picture of resources available for mental health, both in individual countries and globally. It will also highlight the progress that has been made during recent years and the gaps that still need to be addressed.
So what can you do to celebrate World Mental Health Day and raise awareness of mental health issues? You can promote the day on social media or speak with friends and family about it. If you think someone might be struggling with their mental health, let them know that you are there for them and to listen to them without judgement. If you have personal experience with mental health issues, you can share your own story.
The more people speak about mental health, the more normal it becomes to do so. And the more normal it becomes, the more accepted it will be for people to look after their own mental health. The more people look after their own mental health, the more likely it is that mental health support becomes more accessible.