Celebrating World Mental Health Day

Despite all of the positive work which has been done over recent years, when it comes to discussions about mental health it is still all too easy for them to be to be clouded in misinformation or somehow seen as being something shameful. In many walks of life mental issues are simply not talked about or in some strange way are seen as being part of home life and therefore playing no part in the world of work.

It’s hardly surprising; after all it’s not so long ago that stress was seen as being a personal failure rather than a product of working conditions. But the fact that it’s not surprising doesn’t make it right. That’s why World Mental Health Day which is celebrated on 10 October each year is so important. It’s a chance to raise awareness of mental health issues across the globe as well as providing “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.”

Although World Mental Health Day is a global event, it also provides an opportunity for individuals and businesses and healthcare providers to speak up and share what they are doing in the field of mental health. For example, the Bank of England has released a video in which its staff speak out to help to end the stigma around mental health issues. Called ‘This is me’ the video highlights the personal stories of some of the people who work at the Bank of England.  It is hoped that their testimony will help others to seek help if they need it. The bank’s actions also reinforce a pledge which they signed in 2013 as part of a time to change initiative.

World Mental Health Day is designed to raise general awareness and promote discussion but it also seeks to highlight one particular aspect of building help or awareness each year. In 2016 the overall theme is psychological first aid. Covering psychological and social support, psychological first aid aims to help those who may come across people who are distressed or in crisis, helping individuals to understand how to act and what to say as they essentially provide front-line support.

Those who may be called on to give psychological first aid could be in the emergency services or in the health sector, in education or business, or they may even be a passerby who has encountered a crisis situation. Whoever they are, by providing appropriate early intervention they could help to alleviate the immediate crisis; with advanced support then being provided by health and mental health and social service professionals.

The general information provided on the World Mental Health Day website is well worth a browse but the essential message which society needs to take on board is that mental health has to come out of the shadows and be accepted as a normal part of everyday life. Whatever the cause, whether it be stress or anxiety, addiction or any other sort of ongoing condition; being able to talk openly and with acceptance is an important step in ongoing management or recovery.

That’s why steps taken by organisations such as the Bank of England are so important; they help to open up debate and to remove stigma. But it’s up to all of us, whether we are in the health sector or not to play our part in reducing the stigma and discrimination which for too long has been faced by those with mental health challenges.