World Mental Health Day

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, and this year’s theme is especially pertinent in today’s climate. The focus is mental health for all, with an emphasis on greater investment in mental health and greater access to mental health.

According to the WHO, “The past months have brought many challenges: for health-care workers, providing care in difficult circumstances, going to work fearful of bringing COVID-19 home with them; for students, adapting to taking classes from home, with little contact with teachers and friends, and anxious about their futures; for workers whose livelihoods are threatened; for the vast number of people caught in poverty or in fragile humanitarian settings with extremely limited protection from COVID-19; and for people with mental health conditions, many experiencing even greater social isolation than before. And this is to say nothing of managing the grief of losing a loved one, sometimes without being able to say goodbye.

This is why the goal of this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign is increased investment in mental health.”

According to the World Federation for Mental Health, “While COVID-19 has increased the spotlight on mental health, the stocktaking of how greater access to mental healthcare can be improved must always be a continuous process. We can always do more to strengthen mental health response and support in our communities. These investments are not purely the government’s responsibility, nor should doctors be the only answer for those suffering.”

How can we as individuals, communities, and the world be more proactively involved in securing access to mental health care for everyone? According to this publication by the WHO, some ways to promote and protect mental health are to be actively involved and supportive of programs such as:

  • School mental health promotion activities – These include child-friendly schools, and programs that support ecological changes in schools.
  • Early childhood interventions – Examples include pre-school psycho-social interventions, home visits to pregnant women, and combining nutritional and psycho-social interventions in populations of the disadvantaged.
  • Community development programs
  • Support to children – Such programs may include skills-building or child and youth development.
  • Housing policies – designed to improve housing.
  • Violence prevention programs – such as community policing initiatives.
  • Empowerment of women – Socio-economic programs to improve access to education and credit, for example.
  • Social support for the elderly – including day and community centers for the aged and so-called “befriending” initiatives.
  • Mental health interventions in the workplace – including programs to prevent and reduce workplace stress.
  • Programs targeted for vulnerable groups – These groups may include migrants, minorities, indigenous people, and people

It is also important to reach out to friends and loved ones, and let them know they are not alone. De-stigmatize language surrounding mental health and mental illness, and let those around you know that it is okay not to be okay.

“Let us hold hands and unify our voices in moving the mental health investment agenda for increased focus and access to mental health and thereby making mental health a reality for all – everyone, everywhere.” -World Federation for Mental Health

Mental Health in the African American Community

Apportis stands by the African American Community in their fight for equality, justice, and peace.

The African American Community is an integral part of the American melting pot. Their culture has made many significant impacts on shaping America, through art, literature and even cuisine. Yet there is a darker side to this story, one of inequality, institutionalized racism, and lack of access to mental health care.
According to Mental Health America, 13.4 percent of the population in the United States identify as Black or African American. Of these, a reported 16% have a mental illness. That equates to nearly 7 million people, more than the population of Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia combined.

Although this number is significant, it may not represent the actual amount of Black Americans who suffer from mental illness, due to the stigma surrounding mental health as well as provider bias. In fact, according to one article, African Americans experience direct trauma, such as police brutality and verbal attacks, yet are less likely than their White counterparts to seek mental health care. Ways we can all help reduce this stigma and provide support for those with mental illnesses include:

  • Bringing awareness to the use of stigmatizing language around mental illness
  • Educating family, friends, and colleagues about the unique challenges of mental illness within the Black community
  • Becoming aware of our own attitudes and beliefs toward the Black community to reduce implicit bias and negative assumptions

In addition, there are many resources both online and in person to help close the gap of inequality surrounding African Americans and mental health care, such as this article which explains how to seek culturally competent care.

It is especially important to practice self care and give attention to our over all well being during these unprecedented times. This article explains the importance of self care and includes tips for those specifically within the African American community. Some of these include making a self care plan and practicing mindfulness.

Other resources to turn to include:

  • Black Emotional and Mental Health (BEAM) which strives to reduce stigma surrounding mental health in the black community through outreach, advocacy and education.
  • Black Mental Health Alliance which provides resources and listings to find a culturally competent therapist, as well as programs and educational tools.
  • The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation which aims to build a better relationship between the African American community and mental health care providers through education and reducing stigma. There is also an opportunity to apply for free virtual therapy and a directory of pre-screened professionals who are culturally competent.
  • Therapy for Black Girls which is an online space dedicated to promoting positive mental health for Black women and girls, as well as connecting them to a therapist.
  • Loveland which provides scholarships and funding especially for Black women and girls to promote their mental well being.
  • Therapy for Black Men which is full of resources especially for Black men, and a database to find a culturally competent therapist.
  • Brother, You’re On My Mind which is a foundation through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services focused on serving African American men. Their website includes resources as well as the opportunity to find local chapters of BYOMM to turn to in times of crisis.

Please know that whatever your culture, beliefs, identity or race, you are not alone. Turn to someone and ask for help. There are many willing to listen.