A term that includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, mental health affects how we think, feel, and act and also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being. Mental health is important for overall health because mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has come to the fore and I am glad that the millennials and the gen Z know that they have to make their mental health their priority. A 2017 study estimated that 792 million people lived with a mental health disorder. This is slightly more than one in ten people globally or 10.7%. In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all.
Today, there has been increasing acknowledgement of the important role mental health plays. People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely – as much as two decades early – due to preventable physical conditions. Despite the progress in some countries, people with mental health conditions often experience severe human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma. Many mental health conditions can be effectively treated at relatively low cost, yet the gap between people needing care and those with access to care remains substantial. Effective treatment coverage remains extremely low.
To commemorate mental health, the World Health Organisation has declared today, 10 October as World Mental Health Day. The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. Celebrated since 1992, World Mental Health Day began at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.
The theme for the 2022 edition is “Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority”. The pandemic continues to take its toll on our mental health and our ability to reconnect with each other. Many aspects of mental health have been challenged and already 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 in short supply and fall far below what is needed, especially in low and middle-income countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis for mental health, fueling short- and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions. Estimates put the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic. At the same time, mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened. Growing social and economic inequalities, protracted conflicts, violence and public health emergencies affect whole populations, threatening progress toward improved well-being with a staggering 84 million people worldwide forcibly displaced in 2021.
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, all of us must deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health as individuals, communities and governments and match that value with more commitment, engagement and investment by all stakeholders, across all sectors. We must strengthen mental health care so that the full spectrum of mental health needs is met through a community-based network of accessible, affordable and quality services and supports. Stigma and discrimination continue to be a barrier to social inclusion and access to the right care; importantly, we can all play our part in increasing awareness about which preventive mental health interventions work. Let’s try and envision a world in which mental health is valued, promoted and protected; where everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy mental health and to exercise their human rights; and where everyone can access the mental health care they need.