10th October is celebrated as World Mental Health Day to raise awareness of Mental Health issues across the globe. It is an essential step towards promoting education and advocacy against the social stigma around Mental Health, even in the modern world. What if we talk about Mental Health, not just on this day, but everyday?
For the first time in the year 1992, 10 October was observed as World Mental Health Day. Since then, it is celebrated every year with a unique theme related to spreading awareness of Mental Health. The theme for the year 2020 was about increased investment in mental health. Mental Health was a matter of concern for everyone this year due to multiple lockdowns across the globe to control the spread of COVID-19. The year 2020 was a mirror to a painful reality of Mental Health and its awareness in the 21st century, where people are more vocal about social issues than being quiet.
But the pandemic is “just the tip of a mental health iceberg — one that has been ignored for far too long, and unless we act, it will continue to have disastrous results for children and societies long after the pandemic is over.”
-UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in The State of the World’s Children 2021
The theme for this year focuses on making Mental Health care a reality for all. Adjusting to the new normal of isolation and virtual meetups, Mental Health has become a prominent factor impacting every individual, one way or the other. The social stigma that surrounds Mental Health makes it tough to talk about it. For some, it is so difficult to find a person who can even listen to them without judgments that they choose to struggle alone in their dark shell.
To make Mental Health care a reality for all, what can we as individuals do, who may not be directly associated with the Mental Health care sector?
Talk about it, not just around World Mental Health Day, but every day, every time you get a chance to spread awareness and erase a bit of the social stigma.
The stigma — why do we need to talk about Mental Health?
When people describe physical health, they talk about exercise and healthy foods. When they talk about mental health, they mean depression, anxiety and sadness.
-Alex George, a medical doctor and reality television star in the United Kingdom whose brother lost his life to suicide at the age of 19 (The State of the World’s Children 2021, a report by UNICEF)
Mental Health is often associated with words like anxiety, depression, sadness, and suicide. They are considered negative words by our society and hence are expected not to be spoken of aloud. The believers of this idea never really spoke about Mental Health aloud. Thus there have hardly been any conversations to make it a positive one.
The problem lies not just in willingness to talk but in listening as well. The reasons can range from a fear of walking a path different from the ones close to us to a fear of judgment. It’s time we do not just talk about the future but help the ones who have grown up in the stigmatized environment to live a better present. We need everyone in the process — the ones who stigmatize and the ones who are stigmatized for their Mental Health.
According to a survey carried out for UNICEF by Gallup in 21 countries in the first half of 2021, a median of 83 percent of young people (15 to 24 years old) believes dealing with Mental Health problems by sharing experiences with others is a better way. The stigma still exists, but the need to not just look past the stigma but look through it is evident. To understand it better, and break it, one day at a time, for each of us.
What can we do?
Society represents a group of individuals. The reasons why a group of individuals aligns can be manifold. Once they do, their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs start aligning as well. If an individual takes charge of going a different way, some may align with the diverged path, views, or ideas and might start walking the path of change.
What is important here is an individual, a new idea, a new path. As individuals, we can initiate change from this day forward by talking about Mental Health often, listening to those in need, and educating others about the need to take care of their Mental Health. It can be a big step to erase the stigma which has shadowed our minds for years altogether.
We all have Mental Health. Just like our physical health, there can be some issues related to our Mental Health as well. Healing from them is a process that can have multiple stages like soothing words, kind actions, and medical care. Mental Health needs a holistic approach and a better understanding. From common people to specialists, all need to join hands in this journey of change to lead towards a better tomorrow by building a better today. There is nothing that can stop us from moving ahead, but there can be a lot of barriers when it comes to initiating this journey. Challenging conventional norms or bringing a new idea; all need time to be accepted and appreciated. But someone has to begin, sometime, someday.
Why not now, why not this day, why not every day?
Let us shape the present and the future together.
This World Mental Health Day, let us pledge to celebrate Mental Health, not just for a month, not just for a week, nor just for a day but everyday.
Crafting the way towards Mental Health