The past few decades have seen a sharp increase in the attention given to the important role of mental health. People are more open about mental illness today than ever before. The idea that you should keep your problems to yourself and suffer in silence is becoming increasingly outdated. This shift toward sharing stories and providing support is an important step toward breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health.
At the same time, mental health struggles are not unique to first-world countries. Sometimes it’s easy to think about your home country without considering its impact on a global scale. Millions of people around the world have mental health battles.
Studies show that depression is one of the leading causes of disability globally. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 29. Severe mental health causes people to die as many as two decades early due to their conditions.
Given the right care, these conditions are almost entirely preventable. Mental illness doesn’t have to be a fatal illness; with proper and effective treatment, people learn to manage their symptoms and live happy, fulfilling lives.
October 10th marks World Mental Health Day, an international day that exists to recognize and raise awareness for the fight against mental health stigma around the world. Every year, thousands of organizations and individuals unite to bring attention to the truth about mental illness and the effects it has on the lives of people worldwide.
How do people recognize World Mental Health Day and what can you do to help within your community?
History of World Mental Health Day
The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) is an international organization focused on advocacy and education about all aspects concerning mental health. In 1992, the organization recognized the need for a campaign focused on mental health and the negative stigma surrounding it. The result was World Mental Health Day, first celebrated on October 10, 1992.
The WFMH set up studios in Tallahassee, Florida, and broadcast a two-hour telecast globally. From that very first day, World Mental Health Day had worldwide support. Participants phoned in from England, Chile, Zambia, and Australia. Segments were also sent in from Geneva, Atlanta, and Mexico City.
Now realizing the potential for World Mental Health Day, the organization decided to set its first theme in 1994. They decided on one that applied around the world: “Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World.” Every year since then, the WFMH decides on a theme to set a consistent focus for the awareness day and the campaign surrounding it.
World Mental Health Day Today
The need for World Mental Health Day has only increased since its introduction in 1992. This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is “Mental Health in an Unequal World”. The WFMH decided on the theme because of the increasing polarization among those with wealth and those living in poverty around the world.
Millions around the world still deal with mental illness and other negative mental health effects every day. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people affected by mental health conditions around the world is staggering:
- Depression: 245 million people
- Bipolar Disorder: 45 million people
- Schizophrenia: 20 million people
- Dementia: 50 million people
What’s worse than the number of cases is the number of people who never find help for their condition. WHO research shows that between 76% and 85% of people in low- and middle-income countries never receive treatment for their disorder. Further, those who do receive treatment tend to receive low-quality care.
Setting the focus on the inequalities that still exist brings awareness to these distressing statistics. People who aren’t able to receive help for their mental illness are at much higher risks for lasting physical and psychological effects. World Mental Health Day aims to draw attention to this sobering reality and continue connecting people with the help they need.
Recognizing World Mental Health Day in Your Community
Wondering how you can celebrate World Mental Health Day in your community? The World Health Organization compiled a list of events to participate in that you can find right here. Mark your calendar for October 10th, find a way to get involved, and show your support on World Mental Health Day this year.