October 10- World Mental Health Day

Good mental health is not simply the absence of diagnosable mental health problems. Instead, it is characterized by one's ability to express and manage a range of emotions (both positive and negative) while forming and maintaining good relationships with others.

Mental and emotional health ensures that we make the most of our potential and contribute to our community and society. However, there can be times when we feel weighed down by our day-to-day problems, and as each of us are different, we cope differently with these difficult times. Some can bounce back faster, while others may take longer. To acknowledge this difference and encourage people to come out and share their emotional challenges, the day was first commemorated on October 10, 1992, at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health. It was continued to be celebrated annually. Over the years, it was solidified as an international day, and specific themes were allotted to spread awareness about mental health. 

Some Statistics on Mental Health 

According to the World Bank, nearly 1 billion people live with mental health disorders, and 75% of those who live in developing countries do not receive any treatment. The situation has worsened due to the pandemic. Mental health issues can be a precursor to suicide, and this is also reflected in the numbers that we have. About every 40 seconds, a person dies by suicide. This burden can double during crises like natural disasters or wars. It is seen that about 1 in 5 people suffers from mental health issues in a conflict. 

The theme for 2021: Mental Health in an Unequal World

The theme was chosen on due deliberation as the pandemic highlighted inequalities due to race, ethnicity, gender, and lack of respect for human rights in many countries. Such inequalities leave an impact on people’s mental health. The theme highlights the access gap between low and middle-income countries and high-income countries and also exposes the gap in budget allocation between mental health and other physical disorders. The burden of mental health disorders is higher on those who are placed in a disadvantageous position in society due to poverty, physical disabilities, etc. The theme tries to draw our attention to this fact so that requisite steps can be taken to provide quality access to everyone. 

Looking forward: some good examples

Some organizations have recognized the absence of mental health infrastructure for low-income societies and have started intervening at a local level. For example, “Schools that care” is an initiative that provides mental health services to rural Kansas students and their families. Families receive such services through the Family Advocate, and till September 2021, around 3,456 people have participated in counseling and educational activities through this organization. 

Mental Health in 2021 and Achieving Sustainable Development Goals by 2030

In order to improve the growing gap in access to mental health care in an increasingly unequal society, we need to reflect upon a few lessons that we’ve learned during the pandemic. 

Mental health services must be integrated into the health system instead of being provided in the silo. Improving the situation requires an integrated effort with participation from the community. Prioritizing the psychosocial needs of vulnerable groups is critical to a country’s investment in human capital. 

We have all seen a mental health crisis unfolding with the pandemic. Addressing it speedily is the only way of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Simply put, there is no health without mental health! 

For more information, please click here.

Shristi Banerjee

Lawyer, Jharkhand High Court (India)

Global Representative (India), Roya Institute of Global Justice