World Mental Health Day 2020

Today is World Mental Health Day (WMHD) and, as has become my custom, I’m making my small contribution to help raise awareness. The day was initiated in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and is given a theme each year. This year’s theme is ‘Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access,’ which seems pretty clear to me.  I think it deserves to be widely shared and acted upon.

If you follow this link it will take you to the WFMH’s landing page for WMHD 2020, and a statement from their President, Dr Ingrid Daniels. This includes these words:

”The world is experiencing the unprecedented impact of the current global health emergency due to COVID-19 that has also impacted on the mental health of millions of people. We know that the levels of anxiety, fear, isolation, social distancing and restrictions, uncertainty and emotional distress experienced have become widespread as the world struggles to bring the virus under control and to find solutions.”

The current worldwide pandemic arose against an already dire mental health landscape that saw mental health conditions on the rise across the globe. About 450 million people live with mental disorders that are among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide (WHO’s World Health Report, 2001). One person in every four will be affected by a mental disorder at some stage of their lives while mental, neurological and substance use disorders exact a high toll on health outcomes, accounting for 13% of the total global burden of disease (WHO, 2012).“

There is also a link on their site to a collection of essays from around the world published in support of WMHD, which set out the vision for the future of mental health, both in terms of ongoing need and in relation to the Covid pandemic. Given the statistics in the brief extract I quoted, there is a huge need for much more to be done globally to improve mental health. I wonder how much attention governments will pay to this?

I make that last comment in respect of the situation here in the UK. In my 2018 piece I spoke about a new government initiative to improve mental health care. This was intended to provide funding and resources for treatment that was much needed, and I commented that I would be interested to see how it developed. Even by last year, the initiative appeared to have been buried: Theresa May, the Prime Minister who had introduced it, had been replaced by Boris Johnson and his bunch of gung-ho Brexiteers, who showed few signs of caring about mental health. Any possibility of this changing has now been submerged by the pandemic, which has challenged the government in ways they couldn’t have expected. Given the ineptitude they have displayed, is there any hope that anything meaningful can or will be done for mental health? I also mentioned in 2018 that the government had committed to producing an annual progress report – I don’t recall seeing any such report last October, and I think we can whistle for one with the current lot allegedly in charge!

With or without the government’s help, work continues to support those who suffer from mental health issues. Here in the UK much of that is led by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), whose WMHD page can be found here. They offer a range of publications to support our awareness of how to manage our mental health and their page of Covid-19 resources is particularly good. I was rather taken with their advice on coping with our mental health as we come out of lockdown, and the concerns people may have about how we should act whilst the scientific debate is as yet anything but clear. This is what worries me most about my own situation: so far, I’ve had no signs of any return to the depression I went through nine years ago, but I need continuing physical health care, and I’ll admit to being worried about going to healthcare services which are, by their nature, full of unwell people! The longer I have to think about that, the more that worry could grow, so for me the availability of resources giving me helpful guidance on coping is very important.

But I am just one person. How do my situation and worries translate into the wider picture? In view of my scepticism about the resources being made available by government – or, more accurately, the lack of resources – I can foresee a time, probably next year, when our mental health services are completely overrun. I know from my time in the NHS how pressed the existing services were to cope with the levels of demand they experienced and, seven years on, I doubt that has improved. The problem is, I think, that no one really knows what will happen. It is abundantly clear from the current moves towards a second lockdown that the measures our government has taken to manage the pandemic, with all of the constant chopping and changing, haven’t succeeded, and somehow I doubt that much time and thought is being given to mental health aspects of the pandemic whilst the physical aspects are displaying signs of spiralling out of control again.

I hope you can find time today to reflect on your own circumstances – it is an appropriate day to do so, after all. I also hope that you and those close to you are coping with everything we are going through at present. I know I have been disparaging about governments, but healthcare services, no matter how hard pressed they are, do exist and can provide assistance if needed. Online resources like those provided by the MHF can also give valuable support so, if you think they might help you, please do take a look at them. Our mental health is equally as precious to us as our physical health, and we should all take care. And if someone you know may appear to need some help, a small first step – just asking if they are alright – can be so important.

‘Mental Health For All’ cannot be allowed to just become words for a slogan – we all deserve to have good mental health.

24 thoughts on “World Mental Health Day 2020

  1. My impression is that there are millions of people out there self-medicating who would never cross the threshold of a state-run institution, or pass the test to publicly assisted help. People who end up dead by their own hand, or not quite being able to discern who they should be associating with and ending up the same way. Or the self doubters, the lost, the lonely, the physically ill who commit atrocities on themselves and others. This isn;t just a government throwing $ at it issue, it’s an we were put here to help each other issue, but instead if someone is problematic or exhibits random, not understandable behavior that doesn’t SEEM dangerous we look the other way. And then they turn 25 or 50 and blow their brains out, OD, shoot up a post office or a school…what a loss. at every level of society. Kieth Emerson could be teaching how to be someone like Kieth Emerson, Robin Williams the same. Why is Karen Carpenter dead? No government intervention would have touched them because they weren’t drooling on a street corner and had “access” to personal resources. Bullshit. Sick people need help, not Jesus Loves You memes and it’s time we took ownership of identifying friends, ex-friends, neighbors who need help and responding when they reach out. We can all pretty much agree the “government” regardless of which one where is tits on a nun when it comes to public health issues that don’t involve immediate and direct threats.

    Rant over. Too many dead that don’t need to be friends. I know it’s a crazy world, to many, so many we’ll never know, it is a sad and disparate place.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Such an important issue Clive. I know that mental health cases of depression and suicide have sky rocketed over here in Australia and particularly in my state of Victoria this year due to Covid. Thank you for your continued raising of awareness of this issue.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Clive it’s a similar situation in Australia. The need for more mental health services was always there, but this year has exacerbated the problem. I had counselling for a different reason and the psychologist said many people are experiencing mental health issues than ever before. It’s worse in states where the lockdowns have been long term like Victoria. We’ll only see the affect after life returns to semi normal but who knows when that will be. Thank you for raising awareness of this issue

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Christine. I’m sorry to hear you’ve needed counselling but I hope it helped. I can well imagine how it must be for those in the long term lockdown areas – we are going back into that here, in effect going back to where we were six months ago. My fear is that there is as yet an untapped demand for services, and healthcare providers could be swamped.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Clive for your tireless fight for mental health questions. I feel very disturbed by the sight of masked people and people’s showing anxiety about if it’s allowed to give a handshake as a greeting. To me, that’s grave losses of freedom and what’s valuable in life.
    Last week, I attended a live concert in Copenhagen and got ill afterward from the sight of masked people in the concert hall

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Maria, for your kind words. I’m sorry to hear that this has made you ill – the last thing anyone needs. I take your point about freedoms but hopefully the requirement for masks will be temporary, and I’m of the view that a temporary restriction on our freedoms is preferable to widespread deaths! Let’s hope it doesn’t last much longer. I do fear for mental health services, which will be bearing the burden after the virus has been controlled, and for all those who suffer mental illness as a consequence of it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for replying, dear friend. We have a tragic case in our close family. A female member of our family tested positive in July and went insane. She tried to kill herself and her husband with a knife. Maybe she is permitted home for a short visit this week. She worked in the wards for older adults thinking that she was infecting her patients

        Liked by 2 people

      • That is awful! I hope she can continue getting help and can return to normal as soon as possible. It does show how much pressure healthcare workers have been put under, doesn’t it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad to hear that you are doing well, Clive. Mental health is challenging even in the best of times. Throw in a pandemic, and I have to imagine that these problems will be exacerbated in society.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Clive, I think the mental health issues resulting from C-19 are huge. A lot of people I work with are starting to get sick and suffer from the stress of the extra work load, working from home plus the general anxiety of trying to avoid getting sick and the related mask wearing and hand washing. It isn’t in itself a problem, but it does create anxiety and change. People are also not socializing normally which adds a lot of stress. I hope you are well and holding up okay.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree, Robbie, the pressures are going to be enormous but, understandably perhaps, most efforts are being concentrated at present on the virus, rather than the long-term after effects. I’m ok thanks, hope you’re well too 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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