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