World Mental Health Day: The Challenges For 2020

World Mental Health Day is observed every year on October 10. This year, it comes at a time when the daily lives for most people have changed a lot due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been challenges for health care workers, for students, for workers who have lost jobs, and for people who live in poverty with limited protection from the virus.

People with mental health conditions may be feeling even more isolated than before. Add to this the difficulty of managing the grief of losing a loved one, without being able to say goodbye. Judging by past emergencies, it is expected that the need for mental health and social support will increase significantly in the following months and years.

The Goal of Mental Health Day

Investing in mental health programs at the national and international levels has suffered for years because of chronic underfunding. However, it is now more important than it has ever been. This is why the goal of this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign is to increase investment in mental health.

What Does “Mental Health” Mean?

When talking about mental health, it includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Your mental health affects how you think, feel, and act. It also decides how you handle stress, relate to other people, and make choices.

Your mental health is important at every stage of your life. From childhood through adolescence and on through adulthood. Throughout your life, if you experience mental health problems, your mood, thinking, and behavior can be affected. Elements that contribute to mental health problems include:

  • Biological factors—such as genes or brain chemistry.
  • Life experiences—such as trauma or abuse.
  • Family history of mental health problems.

Warning Signs of Mental Health Problems

If you aren’t sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems, there are some early warning signs of a problem:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities.
  • Low or no energy.
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters.
  • Unexplained aches and pains.
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless.
  • Smoking, drinking, also say using drugs more than usual.
  • Feeling confused, forgetful, angry, edgy, upset, worried, or scared.
  • Fighting or yelling at family and friends.
  • Severe mood swings that create problems in relationships.
  • Persistent thoughts and memories that you can’t get rid of.
  • Hearing voices or believing things that aren’t true.
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others.
  • Difficulties performing daily tasks like taking care of your kids or going to work or school.

Good Mental Health Checklist

Good mental health isn’t just the absence of mental illness. It means that you have a feeling of wellbeing. You feel good and function well in the world. According to the World Health Organization, good mental health is when you can cope with the normal stresses in your life, work productively, and contribute to your community. 

You probably have good mental health if:

  • You are confident in new situations or with new people
  • You feel optimistic
  • You don’t always blame yourself
  • You set goals
  • You feel good about yourself
  • You have good self-esteem

When you have good mental health, you feel good. You have emotions including happiness, love, or compassion, and feel satisfied with life in general. You also may feel like you belong to a community and are contributing to society.

The Overlooked Area of Public Health

Mental health is one of the most undervalued areas of public health. Nearly 1 billion people are living with a mental health disorder. Besides, 3 million people die every year from alcohol use disorder and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. Furthermore, billions of people around the world have been affected in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic which is also affecting people’s mental health.

But still, comparatively few people around the world have access to quality mental health services. The limited access to quality, affordable mental health care in the world before the pandemic has been disrupted even more. 

Causes of Limited Access to Mental Health Care

  • Infection and the risk of infection in long-term facilities such as care homes and psychiatric institutions
  • Barriers to meeting people face-to-face
  • Mental health staff being infected with the virus
  • Closing of mental health facilities to turn them into care facilities for COVID-19

How Widespread is the Mental Health Problem?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, which is part of the National Institutes of Health:

  • Mental health disorders make up several of the top causes of disabilities in established economies, such as the U.S., and include:
    • Major depression also called clinical depression
    • Manic depression also called bipolar disorder
    • Schizophrenia
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • It’s been estimated that 26% of Americans 18 and older (about 1 in 4)—suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.

Depressive Disorders

Many individuals have more than one mental disorder at the same time. Depressive illnesses are likely to co-occur with substance abuse and anxiety disorders.

  • About 9.5% of adults in America will suffer from a depressive illness (such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia) each year. In addition:
    • Women are almost twice as likely to have major depression than men. But men and women are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.
    • Although major depression can develop at any age, the average age is in the mid-20s.
    • Bipolar disorder affects around 2.6% of Americans 18 and older in a given year. The average for the first manic episode is during the early 20s.

Suicide

  • Most people who commit suicide have a mental disorder. Usually, it is a depressive disorder or substance use disorder (SUD).
    • Four times as many men commit suicide than women. Although, women attempt suicide more often than men.
    • The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in Caucasian men over the age of 85. However, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in adolescents and adults aged 15 to 24.

Anxiety Disorders

  • About 18% of people aged 18-54 have an anxiety problem in a given year. Anxiety disorders include:
  • Panic disorder—typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)—the onset of OCD usually begins during childhood or adolescence.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the traumatic incident but may begin years after.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)—can begin at any time but the risk is highest between childhood and middle age.
  • Social phobia—usually begins in childhood or adolescence.

Schizophrenia

  • About 1 percent of Americans are affected by schizophrenia.
  • Most of the time, schizophrenia first appears in men during their late teens or early 20s. For women, it often first appears during their 20s or early 30s.

The New Realities

We are now in a position where we have to face the new realities of life such as:

  • Working from home
  • Temporary unemployment
  • Home-schooling children
  • Lack of physical contact with friends, family members, and coworkers

Adjusting to lifestyle changes like these, handling the fear of contracting the virus, and worrying about people close to us who are especially defenseless are difficult for everyone. But they can be especially difficult for people with mental health conditions.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Fortunately for most of us, there are some things that we can do to look after our own mental health and to help others who might need additional support and care.

Stay informed

Listen to advice and recommendations from your national and local authorities. Follow your trusted news channels. Keep up-to-date with the latest information.

Have a routine

Stick to daily routines as much as possible or create new ones.

  • Go to bed and get up at similar times each day.
  • Keep up with personal hygiene.
  • Eat healthy meals at regular times.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Allow time for working and time for resting.
  • Make time for the things that you enjoy.

Reduce time looking at social media

Try to reduce how much you watch, read, or listen to that makes you nervous or anxious. Get the latest information once or twice a day if needed.

Stay in contact with people socially

Keep in regular contact with people close to you by telephone and online methods.

Limit alcohol and drug use

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink or don’t drink at all. 
  • Don’t use alcohol or drugs as a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, boredom, or social isolation.
  • Harmful use of alcohol is connected to an increased risk of infections and bad treatment results.
  • Alcohol and drug use may keep you from taking sufficient precautions to protect yourself, such as mask-wearing and handwashing.

8 Ways to Raise Awareness For Mental Health Day

Most people aren’t exposed to mental health issues until they are directly affected by a tragedy like suicide. Mental Health Day is a way to promote a more positive approach to looking at mental illness. In the same way, communities are educated about physical health issues like heart disease, it’s important to begin conversations about mental illness. Here are 8 steps you can take to help raise awareness:

1. Talk with everyone you know

Talk and really listen to the answers. If you suspect they are depressed or stressed out, let them know there are resources available. If you think they might be considering harming themselves or suicide, encourage them to get help immediately.

2. Talk about your own experience

If you struggled with a mental illness, or are still struggling, share your story. It could be the nudge the person needs to get help.

3. Encourage kind language 

If you hear people talk about mental illness in unfavorable terms, as them to consider the impact of their words. Don’t reinforce the stigma.

4. Educate yourself 

People misunderstand mental illness. Learn about it and share what you learn.

5. Coordinate a mental health screening event 

Promote an event or ask that mental health screening be part of a community health fair.

6. Volunteer 

Mental health organizations often need help with ongoing efforts.

7. Use social media 

Facebook and Twitter can be great places for inspiring people to be open-minded about mental health.

8. Encourage physical health that supports mental health 

Help people understand that physical health can directly affect mental health.

World Mental Health Day Past and Future

“It is nearly 30 years since the first World Mental Health Day was launched by the World Federation for Mental Health,” said Dr. Ingrid Daniels, President of the World Federation for Mental Health. Dr. Daniels goes on to explain that “During that time, we have seen an increasing openness to talk about mental health in many countries of the world. But now we must turn words into actions. We need to see concerted efforts being made to build mental health systems that are appropriate and relevant for today’s – and tomorrow’s – world.”

Elisha London, Founder, and CEO of United for Global Mental Health says that investment in mental health services is needed now more than ever. Sadly, that’s because there are still so many people who don’t have access to good quality mental health services.

Ms. London goes on to say, “Everyone, everywhere can participate in this year’s campaign. Whether you have struggled with your mental health, know someone who has been affected, are a mental health expert, or if you simply believe that investing in mental health is the right thing to do.”

Take Care of Your Mental Health—Today

As you have read, you are not alone if you are suffering from a mental disorder. There is no reason not to live to your potential. Life is full of possibilities and you should be enjoying every opportunity. 

At Unity Behavioral Health, our professional staff is experienced in helping people who don’t think they can be helped. People who have no self-esteem. People who feel helpless and that there is no hope.

Well, there is hope. Contact us now. If you are dealing with substance abuse and mental illness, we are prepared for that. You have no reason to give up now. Whether it’s for you or a loved one, we’re here for you.

References:

www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day

www.who.int/news-room

www.mentalhealth.gov

www.hopkinsmedicine.org

www.communityreachcenter.org

www.healthdirect.gov.au

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