The importance of World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day, and across the globe, people are talking about a topic that has historically been under-addressed. But shouldn’t mental health be talked about every day? Why is one date more significant than others when it comes to this ever-important topic?

Here’s why we believe World Mental Health Day is important.

WMHD reminds us that it’s #OKToSay

Even now, many people still struggle to talk about their mental health. In fact, only 13% of people would feel comfortable talking about it at work, and a third of people with mental health problems will never seek support of any kind.

Hearing others share their stories candidly helps us feel less alone and less stigmatised. Even though we all experience mental health on a spectrum, sometimes it’s not until we hear others’ stories that we feel able to share our own.

WMDH takes the conversation global

In the UK, we’re getting a lot better at talking about mental health. We’ve seen a number of high-profile celebrities opening up about their own experiences, and the cause has gained support from advocates such as Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The UK still has a long way to go before those with mental health problems have adequate access to support. The government has recently called upon employers to do more to look after their workers’ psychological wellbeing, and blogger Sarah Cardwell has recently launched a campaign to get mental health on the school curriculum.

There are some key lessons we could learn from other countries, such as Norway. Their support services include specialist walk-in clinics specifically for mental health problems. They also offer medication-free treatment programmes for people who are coming off prescription medication.

In countries where funding is more scarce, doctors and researchers are coming up with ingenious ways to support those struggling with mental illness. For example, Zimbabwean Psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda has designed a support programme that trains elder members of the community to provide talking therapies to those in need. Watch his inspiring TED talk here.

Collective voices are harder to ignore

World Mental Health Day is just one day out of 365, whereas mental illness is an ongoing problem all year round. This may cause some to question the point of placing such a fleeting spotlight on the issue. But when people’s voices come together all at once, real, lasting change can happen.

The use of hashtags has been known to cause widespread social change. The #MeToo hashtag shed light on the epidemic of sexual abuse, while the #IceBucketChallenge funded a breakthrough in Motor Neurone Disease research.

Mental health is an issue that should always be a priority, but collective action can serve to push it up the government agenda.

What are you doing for World Mental Health Day? Whether you’re taking part in an event, or simply conversing with others online, tell us what WMHD means to you.

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