The 10th of October marks World Mental Health Day. In celebration of this initiative that was initially launched in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies continue to raise awareness about the importance of psychological wellbeing, especially that, according to WHO, depression is one of the leading mental illnesses while suicide is the second cause of death among 15-29-year-olds.
It is difficult to put any sort of figure as to how many individuals are impacted by mental health issues around the world today, given the fact that a large majority are suffering in silence.
There are a number of reasons why an individual could be facing mental or psychological challenges. It could be a combination of different factors such as trauma, work stress or family issues.
Adults and children who have been going through these experiences have also had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only has had far-reaching consequences but has created new barriers. A unique situation that no-one had ever imagined or experienced before has led to a wide range of unprecedented challenges.
For a period of time, individuals had no option but to change the way of how they work and live. Opportunities to interact were limited, working from home meant there was no physical contact with colleagues, while distance learning presented challenges for parents of children attending school.
Although the world is now gradually getting back to normal, it is clear that the pandemic has brought added emotional and psychological distress to many.
According to a survey published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2020, critical mental health services were disrupted in 93 per cent of the countries that it surveyed, due to the pandemic.
While these initiatives are significantly helping raise awareness of mental health, it requires a collective effort to make a difference. We all have a responsibility to drive positive change and how we approach mental health.
For someone who is suffering from a decline in their mental health, one of the most effective ways to support is to try and make them understand that help is available. This can be a difficult conversation that may require a lot of persuasive techniques, but could be made easier by accepting the reality of the person’s pain. Focusing on finding positive solutions is crucial to offering hope, and expressing willingness to support them finding professional help will help them feel cared for.
At the Psychological Services Center at St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies, one of the most important things we communicate is that mental health disorders are all treatable, and problems can be solved when people put their heads together. Not everyone is comfortable to approach friends or family about their mental health, so the advice we offer to those who have fears or concerns of others can be just as critical as supporting the people that are struggling.
With more and more people being affected every day, it is up to ourselves – members of society to enhance our understanding of mental health and be more aware of how it can impact people’s wellbeing.
Mental health will not go away anytime soon. However, by being open, honest, as well as being able to listen, stigma around mental health issues that are often treated with judgement, can hopefully be broken.
Any conversation about mental health, no matter how long it lasts, can encourage people to open up and get the help they need.