World Mental Health Day

It may have been running for nearly thirty years but World Mental Health Day is as vital now as when it was first brought into being. Celebrated on 10th October, the day was initially seen as a way of bringing forward debate on mental health issues. The first ‘theme for the day’ introduced in 1994 was “Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World.”

This year’s theme of “Mental Health in an Unequal World” reflects the importance of ensuring equal access for all. This focus on equal access is particularly important in the light of the Covid crisis, with the World Health Organisation singling out groups such as health and frontline workers, students, people living alone and those with pre-existing mental health conditions as having been particularly affected.

In tandem with this year’s theme, in the UK research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation reveals that those with long term health conditions, facing discrimination, or parenting on their own are particularly vulnerable. Commenting that “we are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat,” the Mental Health Foundation study reveals a divergence of support depending on social and/or economic factors. That, they say, leads to a need for a multi-faceted response plan which takes into account not only immediate mental health needs but also looks to alleviate the socio-economic causes of mental health problems.

The fact is that although the country is opening up, the effects of covid are ongoing. And whilst anxiety levels may be decreasing, (49% of the population having felt anxious or worried due to Covid in the third week of June, compared with 62% in mid-March), that doesn’t mean that all is now well. People have been affected by the ongoing Covid pandemic, and there is a fair chance that ongoing anxieties may continue for some time to come.

On a more positive note, the World Health Organisation (WHO) comments that at the world Health Assembly in May 2021, “governments from around the world recognized the need to scale up quality mental health services at all levels” with some countries finding “new ways of providing mental health care to their populations.” The WHO is using World Mental Health Day to highlight some of these successes on its website with testimony from around the world under the theme of “Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality.”

As highlighted above, when we talk about mental health care for all we should remember that certain groups including those in the medical profession are particularly vulnerable. ‘Physician heal thyself’ may be an old cliché but it is one which is particularly apt here. It can be all too easy for those in the health profession to focus on patient care at the expense of their own mental well being.  That’s where finding ways to work smarter, to call on outside help when needed, and to use digital solutions to reduce administration can make such a difference. Making time to step back and to de-stress is an essential part of health practice. After all, in order to best serve your patients, you need to be fully focused and clear about what you can offer.

World Mental Health Day 2021 calls for equal access for all. Don’t let those in the health profession be the ones to miss out.