World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day: Why it Matters and How to Get Involved

World Mental Health Day, celebrated annually on October 10th, serves as a crucial occasion to raise global awareness about the importance of mental health. World Mental Health Day emphasizes mental health’s significance as essential to our well-being.

Each year, World Mental Health Day focuses on a specific theme, exploring various aspects of mental health to address unique challenges and promote relevant solutions. Themes like "Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World" (2018), "Mental Health in an Unequal World" (2021), and “Make mental health and well being for all a global priority” (2022) have encouraged individuals to learn about mental health, explore available resources, and seek help when necessary.

In 2023, the theme for the day is "Mental health is a universal human right."

Additionally, the observance engages governments, policymakers, and the general public in discussions about mental health care and support, paving the way for enhanced services and a more compassionate society.

Mental Health Day aims to help break down barriers, reduce stigma, and create a world where everyone can access the support they need to live a mentally healthy life.

Featured in: October - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

World Mental Health Day’s History and Background

World Mental Health Day green ribbon
Photo: iStock.

World Mental Health Day emerged in 1992 when the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) was first established to help ensure mental health becomes treated equally to physical health.  

As a global mental health organization with members across over 150 countries, WFMH sought to raise awareness about mental health and foster open discussions on mental disorders. Guided by Richard Hunter, then Deputy Secretary-General of WFMH, the inaugural theme, "Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World," laid the groundwork for future campaigns,

In 1994, the event's impact and reach expanded significantly when the World Health Organization (WHO) joined as a co-sponsor since each year has focused on a specific theme addressing a particular mental health issue, such as depression and suicide prevention. 

A few key milestones in World Mental Health Day's history include the release of the World Health Report by WHO in 2001 and the 2013 United Nations General Assembly declaration recognizing mental health as a human right.

Over time, World Mental Health Day has flourished, with thousands of organizations and passionate individuals worldwide participating in activities and campaigns to support good mental health. 

The united efforts of these advocates have played a crucial role in promoting mental health awareness and challenging the stigma surrounding mental disorders, underlining the importance of this global observance.

The Cause and Its Challenges

2 friends talking
Photo by Mental Health America (MHA)

At its core, this awareness day strives to dismantle the stigma associated with poor mental health, promote candid discussions, and advocate for robust support systems tailored to those in need. 

People can suffer from various mental health conditions in varying degrees of severity. These include depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, each presenting distinct challenges for those grappling with them.

One of the most daunting challenges individuals face with mental health disorders is the unrelenting stigma surrounding these conditions. Such negative perceptions breed discrimination, misunderstanding, and social isolation, ultimately discouraging those who require assistance from actively seeking it. 

Additionally, the scarcity and accessibility of mental health resources and care exacerbate the problem, particularly in low to middle-income countries where an alarming 75% of affected individuals do not obtain the necessary treatment3.

Roughly one in four people will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime, with depression alone afflicting over 264 million people worldwide. 

Suicide, closely intertwined with having a mental health condition, takes the lives of nearly 800,000 individuals each year. Sadly it is also the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-29. The magnitude of this issue necessitates more significant and concerted efforts in tackling both the individual and systemic challenges accompanying mental health disorders.

5 Important Facts About the Cause

  • Nearly 1 in 4 individuals experience mental health challenges in their lifetime.
  • Unfortunately, the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues often create substantial obstacles for those who need help. 
  • A significant challenge lies in the limited access to mental health care, as less than half of the people affected by mental disorders receive the treatment they desperately need.
  • The economic repercussions of mental health disorders can lead to lost productivity and increased healthcare costs2, weighing heavily on individuals, families, and entire societies.
  • Promoting mental well-being and resilience cultivates a culture of mental health awareness and support, empowering individuals to seek help and learn effective coping strategies before it's too late.

Read more: Mental Health Facts and Statistics.

Efforts and Initiatives

Numerous international organizations promote mental health awareness and support, with the World Health Organization (WHO) at the forefront. 

One of their key efforts is coordinating World Mental Health Day annually, offering resources and educational materials that raise awareness of mental health issues worldwide.

In tandem, the United Nations bolsters mental health initiatives through its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 3, which emphasizes ensuring healthy lives and well-being for all, regardless of age, encompassing mental health.

Bridging the gap between global and local efforts, various nonprofits have launched successful campaigns and educational programs that have garnered significant attention and support.

Take, for example, Time to Change, a UK-based campaign led by mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. It dedicates itself to challenging mental health stigmas through open conversations. Their Time to Talk Day is a prime example of their commitment to engaging people in essential discussions about mental health. 

Similarly, in Australia, RUOK Day inspires individuals to ask their friends, family, and colleagues the simple yet powerful question, "Are you okay?" Doing so sparks meaningful conversations and supports those who may be struggling.

Governments have also acknowledged the importance of mental health and taken steps to address the issue. ThriveNYC, a comprehensive mental health plan launched by the City of New York, aims to facilitate access to mental healthcare and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. Thousands of New Yorkers have benefitted from their initiatives. 

Meanwhile, Canada's Bell Let's Talk initiative raises funds and awareness for mental health through an annual campaign emphasizing decreasing stigma and promoting accessible, high-quality mental health support. 

Are you concerned about your mental health? Seek out the help of a mental health professional by talking to your doctor. 

How to Get Involved and Support the Cause

Getting involved in World Mental Health Day can be a breeze; even starting a conversation about mental health within your social circles goes a long way. By openly discussing this topic with friends, family, and colleagues, you make mental health issues more approachable and reduce the surrounding stigma1.

Not to mention, sharing articles, personal stories, mental health quotes, or resources on social media works wonders in raising awareness and encouraging others to educate themselves.

To actively contribute to the cause, consider volunteering your time and skills to local mental health organizations. You could participate in support groups, lend a hand at counseling centers, or even work on crisis hotlines. 

On top of that, fundraising can create a significant impact in supporting mental health initiatives. Why not organize charity events, such as bake sales or fun runs, to raise money for mental health organizations and programs? 

And, of course, educating yourself is essential; dive into books, workshops, and documentaries to deepen your understanding of mental health issues and challenges.

Last but not least, advocate for mental health policies and resources, both at your workplace and within your local community. Push for implementing employee assistance programs or mental health days, or train as a mental health first aider

Don't forget to wear a green ribbon, the symbol of mental health awareness, as a visible sign of your support and commitment to the cause. By taking these steps, you can actively contribute to World Mental Health Day and leave a lasting positive impact on those affected by mental health issues.

Conclusion

This global awareness day nurtures understanding and empathy and shatters the stigma surrounding mental health issues. As we recognize the importance of mental health, shouldn't we also acknowledge our collective responsibility in advocating for and supporting those facing mental health challenges?

Now is the time to lend your voice and passion to this crucial cause. What can you do to make a difference? Engaging in open conversations, educating yourself and others, or supporting mental health organizations are all great places to start. When we come together, we can foster a more compassionate and inclusive world where mental health is recognized, valued, and nurtured.

By embracing the spirit of World Mental Health Day, we join the movement towards improved prevention, diagnosis, and care of mental health problems. 

World Mental Health Day FAQs

1. What is World Mental Health Day?

World Mental Health Day is observed every year on October 10th to raise awareness about mental health issues and promote mental well-being.

2. Why is World Mental Health Day important?

It is important because mental health concerns affect millions of people worldwide, and yet there is still a stigma attached to seeking help and support. This day helps break down those barriers and encourages people to care for their mental health.

3. What is the theme of World Mental Health Day 2021?

The theme for World Mental Health Day 2021 is "Mental Health in an Unequal World." It focuses on the impact of social, economic, and environmental factors on mental health and aims to promote equity in mental health care.

4. How can I support World Mental Health Day?

You can support World Mental Health Day by spreading awareness about mental health, sharing resources and information, donating to mental health organizations, and advocating for better mental health policies and services.

5. How can I take care of my mental health?

You can take care of your own mental health by practicing self-care, seeking professional help when needed, staying connected with supportive friends and family members, exercising regularly, and managing stress through healthy coping mechanisms.

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1

Clement, S., Schauman, O., Graham, T., Maggioni, F., Evans-Lacko, S., Bezborodovs, N., ... & Thornicroft, G. (2015). What is the impact of mental health-related stigma on help-seeking? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies. Psychological Medicine, 45(1), 11-27.

2

Vigo, D., Thornicroft, G., & Atun, R. (2016). Estimating the true global burden of mental illness. The Lancet Psychiatry, 3(2), 171-178.

3

Kohn, R., Saxena, S., Levav, I., & Saraceno, B. (2004). The treatment gap in mental health care. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 82(11), 858-866.

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