Most of us would probably agree that the pandemic has had, and continues to have, a significant impact on our mental health. The 10th October 2022 - World Mental Health Day provides us with the perfect opportunity to re-commit to protecting and improving mental health.
Why is it so important that we do this?
So many different aspects of mental health have been challenged during the last few years; and even before the pandemic in 2019, an estimated one in eight people globally were living with a mental disorder. At the same time, the services, skills and funding available for mental health remain under huge pressure, and are nowhere near what is needed, especially in low and middle income countries.
We are facing a global mental health crisis.
Some estimates put the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic – and the reality may be that even more people than this, have found themselves experiencing some symptoms of mental ill health. At the same time, mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened, with vulnerable and marginalised groups finding it even harder to get help.
As a society we are facing so many different challenges.
There are growing social and economic inequalities – the energy crisis and rising interest rates are creating huge worry for many. During 2021, a staggering 84 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced. War, violence, public health emergencies – all of these things threaten progress towards improved well-being.
With all of these factors challenging our mental and emotional wellbeing, it is crucial that we deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health as individuals, businesses, communities and governments.
We must match that value with more commitment, engagement and investment. We must strengthen mental health care so that the whole spectrum of mental health needs is met through accessible, affordable and fit-for-purpose services and supports.
Stigma and discrimination are still huge barriers to people being able to access the help and support they need, and also to social inclusion.
It is really important that we all recognise that we can ALL all play a part in increasing awareness about mental health and mental illness, about how to access appropriate help, and about which preventive mental health interventions really work.
World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to do that collectively.
Like the World Health Organisation, we too envision a world in which good mental health is valued, promoted and protected. A world where everyone has an equal right and opportunity to enjoy good mental health and where everyone can access the mental health help and support that they need.
What can we do as individuals, to help contribute to a society in which mental health is valued, promoted and protected?
- Share our own experiences.
Don’t underestimate the value of shared experience – we can often learn from the experiences of others.
- Be willing to be vulnerable
Sharing our challenges can help others feel they are not alone, and may give permission for someone to speak about how they feel, to ask for help.
- Educate ourselves
Even now – we still don’t know enough about mental health. Learning to understand mental health and mental illness better can help us to better understand how we can support those around us.
- Understand the barriers that might exist for others
There are all sorts of things that get in the way of people getting the help they need – stigma, discrimination, language, cultural issues, physical health issues, disabilities, financial worries – all of these things (and more) may be barriers.
- Advocate for others
When things are tough, having someone to advocate for us, can be life changing and so powerful. Anyone can advocate for someone else – you don’t have t be a professional, just willing to offer your support.
There are so many volunteer organisations crying out for volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to help others, whilst also developing lots of new skills yourself.
- Be part of the conversation
It’s great that we have certain awareness days on which we bring awareness and attention to particular issues – AND – this needs to be a focus every day. You can be part of the conversation every day.
- Have healthy boundaries
Having healthy boundaries in place that allow you to prioritise your mental health is a must, for all of us. By doing this, we also model behaviours for those around us – our family, friends and colleagues.
- Value work/life balance
It doesn’t necessarily mean working less – this is about making time in your life for the things that you love, the things that give you an outlet for stress. Making time for these things is important, and brings some (important) balance to our lives.
- Challenge stigma
Stigma is the biggest barrier to people getting the help they need – and language is the biggest contributor to stigma. We ALL can play a part in reducing stigma by thinking about the language that we use when we talk about mental health and mental ill health – and by challenging negative language when we hear it
- Don’t normalise stress
Stress IS a part of life. We can’t eliminate it. However – the evidence is very clear that too much stress causes mental ill health. It is crucial that we don’t normalise high levels of stress – that we take personal responsibility for managing stress effectively – and that we speak up when stress becomes too much.
I hope that this article has been helpful and that you have found something useful in it for you. This World Mental Health Day, 2022, is all about promoting GOOD, POSITIVE mental health for everyone – and I wish that for you.
With love, Claire Russell
CEO, Mental Health in Business.