World Mental Health Day is celebrated on October 10. It is a global event aiming to promote, educate, and raise awareness of mental health issues, get people talking about their mental health, and eradicate stigmas associated with mental illness. The day is supported by The World Health Organization which organizes events and sets a theme for the year.
History of World Mental Health Day
The origins of World Mental Health Day go back to 1992 when The World Federation for Mental Health began a program to promote global awareness of mental health. By 1994 the day had grown and was being celebrated in more countries and with more significant events and so for the first time a theme was introduced. The first theme was "Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World".
More recent themes include:
- 2018: The theme was “Young people and mental health in a changing world”.
- 2019: The theme for World Mental Health Day was “Focus on suicide prevention”, intending to increase awareness and intervention, and reduce the number of suicides arising from mental illnesses such as depression.
- 2020: The theme was “Move for Mental Health: Let's Invest”, to promote the importance of the increased financial aid that’s needed on an international level to support mental well-being.
- 2021: The theme of “Mental Health in an Unequal World”, addressed the issue of mental health services availability and the unequal balance of access to those services between the wealthy and less fortunate demographics.
Why is World Mental Health Day celebrated?
Mental health is incredibly important and something that every one of us should be aware of. In recent years there is less of a stigma around mental health, and more people are comfortable talking about mental health issues, however, there is still a long way to go before society fully recognizes the importance of an individual's mental health and well-being.
The themes since 2020 have also highlighted how the global pandemic COVID-19 has had a significant effect on mental health and the issues surrounding it. This has been particularly important since many were affected financially, one indicator of this being the unemployment rate which increased to 4.9% at one point in October 2021.
Many communities were required to go into isolation during the pandemic. Less social interaction arising from social distancing can have severe effects, such as increased anxiety from living in an ever-changing and uncertain world. According to worldwide research, there was, during the first year of COVID-19, an increase of 27.6% in the number of cases of major depressive disorder.
While significant trauma and life events can impact our mental health, many of life’s stresses can often be related to our day-to-day work or personal life. Workplaces can help by putting up posters to raise awareness and educate their employees, encouraging them to support one another, and assisting them with looking out for signs that their colleagues may need support. Awareness can be taught in schools to inform young people better and educate them on the long-term benefits of looking after their mental health.
What to do on World Mental Health Day:
The theme for 2022 is 'Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority'. Many employers will be promoting mental health with activities and events that also acknowledge the theme.
Take some time for yourself and keep an eye on your well-being. Make sure you’re getting enough time to relax and rejuvenate to keep a healthy mind and avoid any unnecessary stresses in your day-to-day life. If you feel like things are getting on top of you or are finding it difficult to keep organized, consider using a daily planner or wellness journal to make sure you’re looking after yourself.
Try to check in with friends and family, they will surely appreciate the gesture. Use this day to let them know that you’re there for them, and to remind them how important their mental health is. If there is someone in your life who you are particularly concerned about, seek out relevant help to get them the professional support and therapy they require.
On and around this date, it is common to see people wearing a ribbon in solidarity, to raise awareness, and to show their support. Others choose to take their support online by posting on social media with the hashtag #worldmentalhealthday.
Support and where to find it: there are plenty of resources, charities, and organizations that are there to help including but not limited to: the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Samaritans USA, or Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS). If you feel you may be struggling with mental health, know that you’re not alone. Nearly 50 million Americans are reported to struggle with their mental health. In Canada, one in five Canadians has suffered or is suffering from a mental health illness or disability. Don’t suffer in silence, seek help.