World Health Organisation defines the term “mental health” as a state of wellbeing wherein individuals are able to realise their respective capabilities, are able to handle general stressful aspects of life, are able to work optimally, and are able to contribute to their community. Mental health can also be understood as the overall psychological and emotional well being and it directly affects our general functioning through life. The World Mental Health Day is going to be observed on the 10th of October this year. In light of this day the president of the World Federation for Mental Health, Dr Ingrid Daniels has announced this year’s theme for the same; “mental health in an unequal world.” Although this may look like any random catchphrase to some, a closer observation reveals that this theme holds great significance in today’s time for all of us.
In recent times, the world has plunged into an obvious web of uncertainty and is constantly struggling to find its way back since then. It should not come as a surprise to anyone if we say that almost everyone has struggled on some level because of this unprecedented pandemic and most of us have realised some deterioration of our mental health. So if mental health and its fluctuations vis-a-vis our situations are common to every one of us, then what is so “unequal” about it? The answer to this is not as simple as you think.
We humans are surrounded by a number of social inequalities including but not limited to varying social backgrounds, economic backgrounds, race, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyles, etc. An individual’s mental health is a sum total of all of their unique experiences as well as their respective environments. This makes all of our struggles different. But this is not the only “unequal” aspect when we talk about mental health. Access to mental health facilities or mere awareness about them also varies widely in our world. We live in an unequal world where the rich are getting richer by the day and the poor poorer. People from lower income slabs do not have the luxury to even think about the concept of optimal mental health, let alone strive for it. Studies show that over 75-95 percent of people who might be having mental health disorders do not get any help owing to them being in middle-low income countries.
The general lack of investment in the mental health sector is the reason why there is a lack of resources and tons of stigma that lies around the issue. Many low-income countries do not even acknowledge the aspects of mental health. In many cases, the families of sufferers shun their concerns as usual boredom/ sadness and do not deal with mental health like they ought to. There also needs to be a greater deal of attention to cultivate a uniform and heightened standard of care for mental health problems so that more people can benefit from the existing infrastructure around it.
The 2021 campaign on mental health is an exercise to focus on issues that lead to inequalities regarding mental health in local as well as global scenarios. There is an urgent need to tackle such issues and spread awareness about mental health among all sectors of society. People from all walks of life and all sections of the society can face mental health issues in some form or the other. So what is important is that we help people identify the need for good mental health and provide an infrastructure where they can seek help. It is the need of the hour that we normalise “asking for help” and that no one feels judged as weak because of it. A lot of biases and inequalities in the mental health sphere will not go away from the world any time soon. It is going to be a constant and gradual process that all of us are a part of. This World Mental Health Day, acknowledge the need for good mental health practices and spread awareness about them among your near and dear ones. Check up on the people around you, sometimes a simple Hello with a warm smile could help make someone else’s day better. We are all in the same boat, so be kind to yourself and every person around you.