World Mental Health Day 2021

Today is World Mental Health Day (WMHD) and, as usual, I am marking it by revisiting the reason I began this blog, almost nine years ago now. Whilst I have strayed a long way from my beginnings it is a subject which remains close to my heart, and this annual date deserves to be noted by me, in doing my small bit to raise awareness. WMHD was initiated in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and is given a theme each year. This year’s theme, announced by the WFMH President Dr Ingrid Daniels, is  ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’. In her announcement, she said:

This theme was chosen by a global vote including WFMH members, stakeholders and supporters because the world is increasingly polarized, with the very wealthy becoming wealthier, and the number of people living in poverty still far too high. 2020 highlighted inequalities due to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the lack of respect for human rights in many countries, including for people living with mental health conditions. Such inequalities have an impact on people’s mental health.

This theme will highlight that access to mental health services remains unequal, with between 75% to 95% of people with mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries unable to access mental health services at all, and access in high income countries is not much better. Lack of investment in mental health disproportionate to the overall health budget contributes to the mental health treatment gap.  

Many people with a mental illness do not receive the treatment that they are entitled to and deserve and together with their families and carers continue to experience stigma and discrimination. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ grows ever wider and there is continuing unmet need in the care of people with a mental health problem.

The full statement is considerably longer than that: I shared that extract to give you a feel for why the theme has been chosen, but if you’d like to read the full version you will find it on the WFMH’s website, here. The emphasis this year is very much on raising awareness of the imbalance in care and treatment for mental health issues around the world, which is laudable. I just hope that governments actually take this seriously and do something about it – we can but hope.

If you have read any of my sporadic posts on mental health before you may recall that I have quoted the UK’s Mental Health Foundation (MHF) as a source of help and information. You can find their site here, and as usual it has a range of materials to help you support the day, some of which I have borrowed for illustration around this post. They have just announced this morning a new Covid Response Programme, which you can read about there, and there are also a number of links to give you more information about how we should care for our mental health, and why it is important that we do. I have long been a supporter of the MHF, and have recently acquired this fetching mask to show my support:

The model may not be up to much, but the mask is good! Their site also mentions their pin: I have one of these too. They cost very little and are a good way to support the MHF’s work:

Amongst those links I mentioned the MHF has a series of videos and podcasts about mental health. All are available free on their website, and this will give you a flavour of the videos:

Amongst the other videos you will find some of people telling their stories – for me, these are moving, as I don’t think I’d have been brave enough to go in front of a camera to talk about myself like that.

From their podcasts, this one gives you an introduction to mindfulness, and what it can do for us. I was never advised to practice it – I think it was only becoming recognised in its current form at the time my spell of depression was coming to an end – but you can hear from this why it might be helpful, and why I might turn to it if I feel the need (click anywhere on the image to play):

And hot off the presses, they have just released a new podcast to mark WMHD, in which two women talk about their recent experiences with mental health:

I am assuming that these resources will probably be available to all, regardless of whether or not you are in the UK, but I am sure you will also find similar help where you are: for example, American readers can scroll down the right hand column to the “Stand Up For Mental Health’ badge. If you click this it will take you direct to the Healthy Place Inc. page for their campaign (but it takes you away from here, so do please come back!). I know that there are similar organisations and initiatives in other countries, too.

Last year I remarked that the pandemic was very likely to increase demand for mental health services, and cast my thoughts back to 2018, when the then UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, introduced a new initiative to support mental health. Not surprisingly, her replacement by the gung-ho Brexit brigade has seen that cast to the waste heap of failed government programmes, even before the arrival of the pandemic. The current government has shown a lack of support for the NHS in general, using it as an object of blame more than as something it needs to support, and mental health doesn’t appear to be a priority for them. They have announced additional funding – to be paid for by taxpayers, of course – but have yet to show any clear idea of how this might be used to provide the additional care that is much needed. Mental health services are very much the Cinderella of the NHS at the best of times, fighting for every last pound that they can attract, and we are far from being anywhere near the best of times at present. Sadly, that prediction I made last year has been proved correct, but it didn’t really take a genius to work it out, did it? The pandemic has indeed made this bad situation even worse: I read yesterday in the paper that it is estimated that cases of depression rose by over 25% worldwide during 2020, so the WFMH’s theme is timely. Much more needs to be done by government, but we can all do our bit too. If you follow the MHF link you will find helpful tips for ways we can all help ourselves and those we care about, and whilst it is important that there is a national programme to support mental health issues we should all do our best for ourselves. That may be easier said than done, but we should all try – it just makes sense.

There is a very personal reason for me to support WMHD this year. On 10th October 2011 I was first diagnosed with depression – today is my tenth anniversary. Having been involved prior to that in supporting WMHD initiatives as part of my day job and in a voluntary capacity, the personal irony of the date being that of my diagnosis has not been lost on me. This year, it has me in reflective mode: so much has changed for me in that decade. The diagnosis was the beginning of a spell of more than nine months off work and, by the time I returned, I only had fourteen months left until I retired. My boss was incredibly supportive, and set me onto project work – which I hope made a difference. As part of my return to work I was given access to a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), some of which required me to commit thoughts to paper, and out of that came the beginnings of this blog. If you haven’t seen the posts on this before, you can find them under ‘My Story’ in the menu at the top of the page. Whilst other health issues – physical health, that is – have limited me a lot in the past six years I have been able to draw on my memories of that bad time, and how I was helped to get through it. Those who have suffered from depression know that you are never ‘cured,’ and that as it is part of your chemical make up it can come back to affect you. That is why I take care of my mental health, and follow some of those tips I was given and those which you can find on the MHF’s website.

I don’t ever want to go back to how things were for me ten years ago: I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, and if you feel that you may be suffering – whether that might be the after effects of the pandemic or for other reasons – do take a look at what the MHF say. With hindsight, the most important piece of advice I can give you is to take that first step and talk to someone: that could be a friend, a loved one, a work colleague or a medical professional. It can be hard to pluck up the necessary courage, but it is vital: I left it too late to do that, and things had become much worse for me than they should have done. At the very least I might not have needed so much time off work! Again, this is an easier thing to say, rather than do, but I cannot emphasise enough how much it can help. Take care of yourself and you will be better placed to help others. On this World Mental Health Day that is perhaps the most important thing any of us can do.

28 thoughts on “World Mental Health Day 2021

  1. Pingback: October Skies | Take It Easy

  2. A worthwhile cause to promote as mental health problems take many guises …Talking and getting it out in the open is good, Clive and nice to see you promoting this worthy cause …Covid has surely taken its toll on many…x

    Liked by 2 people

    • It means a lot to me personally, Carol, and I’ll always do my own little but to support it. Those figures show the Covid effect, and I suspect there are many more cases that haven’t been diagnosed and recorded, sadly x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mental Health in an Unequal World has to be one of the best themes I’ve ever heard. We always hear about how inequities affect others physically and financially, but recognizing the toll this takes on mental health is equally important.

    It’s commendable that your boss was so supportive of your situation. Unfortunately, too many employers think people with mental health issues should just suck it up.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. wonderful post, Clive. I am sure COVID has had an effect on the mental health of people, but so has the general state of the world. There seems to be so much anger and hate directed towards people who don’t think the same way as others, that it must create a tremendous amount of stress. Congratulations on the progress you have made in 10 years, and thank you for your willingness to share your story and to keep this issue front and center.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Jim. The Covid stats are undeniable, although unsurprising. I’m sure you’re right on the stress issue, too: there have been many stories of people being affected by abuse and bullying, both online and in person, some of which have even caused people to commit suicide. It’s so very sad, and I don’t think those abusers give a moment’s thought to the impact they can have.

      Thank you for your kind words. I stray, but will always come back to this topic. I can only speak for myself, but I know there are many who have gone through what I did. I probably got off relatively lightly.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Clive, well done. As you note, the stigma remains for too many. And, access is also key to help. Before I retired, I traveled some with a behavioral psychologist who helped employers set up behavioral health programs for their employees. She would look at de-identified data to see how many folks in the company had been prescribed mental health meds but did not have therapist. To her, the therapist was critical to the process. So, one of her goals was to make more available and publicized therapists to chat with folks. Right now, there is an excellent TV ad on how unhelpful friends and family’s advice to someone in need can be, encouraging the use of at least an online zoom therapist session. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Keith. I always mark this day, as it means much to me. That work you describe sounds interesting: more employers should take care of their workers like that, and the involvement of a therapist is indeed key – it took many months before I had access to anyone other than my GP, who was great but not a specialist. That tv ad isn’t playing here, of course, but from what you say I am a little dubious about it. The ability to talk to friends and family is important, as of course is the quality of their advice! Would I be right in thinking this ad may be encouraging people to seek out treatment they will have to pay for? If so, it may not be offering unbiased advice!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Clive, good questions. I agree that chatting with friends and family help. But, the purpose is to get help that is not biased and who knows the questions to ask. As for payment, I am sure they are selling product, but the message is to get help, which is a key takeaway. I know some family members will worry about how a child or spouse’s mental health issues will impact people’s impression of the worrier. That is not the right mindset. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

      • Professional help is always going to be best, I agree, but others can play an important part. Coming from a country whose main healthcare system is universal and free at the point of treatment (we pay via taxes), I tend to be a little sceptical about those who charge for the service, but at least we have the option. Your comment about people worrying how it will look to others is a good example of how mental health issues are still stigmatised – if they weren’t, that worry wouldn’t be there.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m fortunate not have suffered from depression but at a very low point have used a mental health service and can vouch for the benefits of talking to someone to help offload some of the burden. It actually helped that it wasn’t someone I knew. The service (Samaritans) was free of course, but I now donate a small fee each month as a way of thanks and support.

    The figures you quote are depressing in itself, and it doesn’t look like it is likely to improve as soon as it should. I believe there is still stigma about mental health, but I like to think those walls are coming down. I hope so at least.

    Thanks for your post Clive.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry to hear that you felt the need for help, Paul, but it’s good that you found it. I agree: I don’t think things will improve any time soon, but there are many caring, dedicated people who do their best to help however they can. The stigmatisation is still there, and is something I’ve written about on more than one occasion: those walls need breaking down!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It is heartbreaking to think of the effect Covid has had on people already having problems and on those whose lives have been thrown off kilter by isolation or the awful stress of working at the acute end In hospitals. Hopefully the upside of mental health being talked about more will have helped.

    Liked by 2 people

Please leave a reply, I'd like to know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.