World Mental Health Day, an annual event that takes place October 10, seeks to raise awareness about mental health issues around the globe.
Each year, the event has a different theme. Last year, it was Psychological First Aid; this year, the theme is Mental Health in the Workplace.
According to the World Health Organization:
Depression and anxiety disorders are common mental disorders that have an impact on our ability to work, and to work productively. Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability. More than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Many of these people live with both. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
Here’s what you need to know about World Mental Health Day 2017:
1. World Mental Health Day Was Established in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health
In 1992, the World Federation for Mental Health founded World Mental Health Day, an annual event taking place on October 10 meant to help raise awareness about mental health issues and reduce the stigmas surrounding them.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the event, which is now officially recognized by the World Health Organization.
The following message appears on the World Federation for Mental Health’s website:
October 10th 2017 marks an anniversary: We come together to celebrate World Mental Health Day for the 25th time! World Federation for Mental Health founded the awareness day in 1992 and since then people all over the world are holding events, making announcements and celebrating #WorldMentalHealthDay.
According to the federation, the day originally did not have a theme, but in 1995, the first theme was debuted: “Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World.”
Since then, past themes have included Living with Schizophrenia, Children and Mental Health, Building Awareness – Reducing Risk: Mental Illness & Suicide and Mental Health and Chronic Physical Illnesses.
2. Social Stigmas Related to Mental Health Can Cause Discrimination at Work, and Poor Work Environments Can Make Mental Illnesses Worse
Given that most of us spent 40 hours a week or more at work, it comes as no surprise that our work environment can shape our mental health for the better and for the worse.
The World Health Organization writes:
Employers and managers who put in place workplace initiatives to promote mental health and to support employees who have mental disorders see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity at work. A negative working environment, on the other hand, may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity.
According to a recent WHO study, mental health problems cause a $1 trillion loss in productivity annually. Additionally, 1 in 5 Americans are affected by mental illness each year.
Yet the data suggests that less than half of adults who experience mental health issues seek medical help. Though online risk assessments, including a Google-sponsored depression questionnaire, and mood-tracking apps abound, the stigma surrounding mental health remains.
Psychologist Graham C.L. Davey wrote about the problems of perception that cause patients to hesitate to seek help for Psychology Today in 2013. “There are still attitudes within most societies that view symptoms of psychopathology as threatening and uncomfortable, and these attitudes frequently foster stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health problems,” Davey said.
He went on to differentiate between social stigma, or prejudice directed toward the sufferer from external sources, and self-stigma, when individuals internalize those stigmas and feel ashamed of their illness.
Throughout history people with mental health problems have been treated differently, excluded and even brutalized. This treatment may come from the misguided views that people with mental health problems may be more violent or unpredictable than people without such problems, or somehow just “different”, but none of these beliefs has any basis in fact . . . [Also,] the medical model implies diagnosis, and diagnosis implies a label that is applied to a ‘patient’. That label may well be associated with undesirable attributes (e.g. ‘mad’ people cannot function properly in society, or can sometimes be violent), and this again will perpetuate the view that people with mental health problems are different and should be treated with caution.
The Mental Health Foundation offers a downloadable guide for workers on how to foster a work environment that both diminishes the stigma of mental illness and contributes toward the overall mental wellbeing of its employees.
3. To Help Raise Awareness, You Can Sign a Pledge, Share Pictures to Your Social Media or Download a Banner for Your Website
On the World Mental Health Foundation website, you can find a number of images promoting mental health awareness for you to download and share on social media.
The foundation also provides a web banner for those who run their own websites to harness their traffic for the fight to raise awareness.
Additionally, the group has created a 2017 World Mental Health Day pledge that individuals can sign on behalf of their workplaces, committing themselves to providing a supportive workplace environment that both works to minimize stress and burnout, and help reduce stigma for those who are suffering from mental health issues at work.
The pledge reads:
I pledge our support for the mental health of all of our workforce. I will commit our team to doing our best at being proactive in promoting:
-Appreciation of employees and workers
-Creation of a supportive environment
-Identification of early signs of burnout
-An organizational culture which reflects value systems and beliefs
-Building awareness and reducing stigma
-Mental health wellness and providing support for employees who need it.
4. Leaders From Around the World Have Joined in to Raise Awareness, Including Britain’s Royal Family
This year, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, spearheaded the Heads Together campaign with her husband, Prince William, and his brother, Prince Harry.
The project seeks to “help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.”
“It was Catherine who first realised that all three of us were working on mental health in our individual areas of focus. She had seen that at the core of adult issues like addiction and family breakdown, unresolved childhood mental health issues were often part of the problem,” said Prince William at an event for the campaign on Tuesday. He added:
We decided to assemble a coalition of charities – comprised of people who had spent decades working to bring mental health out of the shadows – to campaign together to change the national conversation on mental health … Our Royal Foundation has announced a £2 million investment to create a new digital start up that will develop solutions to help people get online support in times of crisis and times of calm as well.
Other world leaders that have joined in the call to raise awareness include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres and more.
“Mental health is a vital part of our overall wellbeing, and everyone deserves access to the mental health care and support they need. … It is up to all of us to create workplaces that promote mental health and respond to employees’ diverse needs. As an employer, the government is working to ensure workplaces are healthy and safe,” Trudeau said in a prepared statement.
5. Twitter Has Co-Opted World Mental Health Day as a Way to Make Fun of U.S. President Donald Trump
It should come as no surprise that the twitterers have used #WorldMentalHealthDay as a means of attacking President Donald Trump, whose often inflammatory tweets frequently spark fury across the Twitterverse.
The hashtag has spawned a series of jokes and puns questioning the president’s mental health, while others have chided those participating for diminishing the meaning of the day by co-opting it for political use.
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