In 2019, 1 in every 8 people, or 970 million people around the world were living with a mental disorder, with anxiety and depressive disorders being the most common. However, less than half of those affected receive treatment, often because of the stigma attached to mental health. Untreated, mental illness can contribute to higher medical expenses, poorer performance at school and work, fewer employment opportunities, and increased risk of suicide
The treatment gap for mental health, as measured by the absolute difference between the prevalence of mental illnesses and the treated proportion is higher in less-developed countries, found to be anywhere between 76% to 85%. One of the major reasons attributed to such a wide treatment gap is the problem of inadequate resources.
World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10th each year, serves as a reminder that our mental health matters. It’s a day to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and encourage individuals to take proactive steps towards better mental well-being. In a world that’s always busy and keeps getting faster, it’s important to stop and think about our mental health. Mental health is about how we feel and think, and it is something we should take care of.
In this article , we talk about the importance of understanding, acknowledging, addressing, and preventing mental health issues, and provide clear steps for individuals to take charge of their mental health.
Understanding Mental Health
The foundation of good mental health begins with understanding what it means. Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness; it encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, influencing how we cope with stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Understanding that mental health is a fundamental part of our overall well-being is the first step. It is recognizing that we all have mental health, just as we have physical health, and that it’s normal to experience challenges along the way.
Acknowledging Mental Health Issues
Acknowledgment is the key to breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. It is about recognizing when something does not feel right within ourselves or when we notice changes in our loved ones’ behavior or mood. This acknowledgment is not a sign of weakness but a brave step towards healing.
For individuals, acknowledging mental health issues means paying attention to their thoughts and emotions, seeking self-awareness, and recognizing when they may need support. For friends and family, it means being empathetic, listening without judgment, and encouraging loved ones to seek help when needed.
Addressing Mental Health Issues
Addressing mental health issues involves seeking help, just as you would for a physical ailment. It means reaching out to professionals who specialize in mental health, such as therapists, counselors, or psychiatrists. These experts can provide guidance, therapy, or medication tailored to individual needs.
Addressing mental health is not limited to clinical interventions. It also involves lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, practicing mindfulness, and ensuring sufficient sleep. Building a strong support system of friends and family is another vital aspect of addressing mental health issues.
Preventing Mental Health Issues
Prevention is a proactive approach to mental health that empowers individuals to protect their well-being. While not all mental health issues can be prevented, many can be mitigated through healthy habits and self-care. Here are clear steps individuals can take to take charge of their mental health:
- Stress Management: Learn effective stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to build resilience against life’s challenges.
- Work-Life Balance: Strive for a healthy work-life balance. Avoid overextending yourself and make time for relaxation and hobbies.
- Social Connections: Cultivate meaningful relationships with friends and family. Social support is a powerful buffer against mental health issues.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Prioritize physical health by eating well, staying active, and getting enough sleep. A healthy body supports a healthy mind.
- Seeking Help Early: If you notice signs of mental distress, don’t hesitate to seek professional help promptly. Early intervention can prevent issues from escalating.
- Educate Yourself: Knowledge is empowering. Educate yourself about mental health to better understand your own needs and those of others.
Stigma affects not only the number seeking treatment, but also the number of resources available for proper treatment. Stigma and misinformation can feel like overwhelming obstacles for someone who is struggling with a mental health condition. Here a few powerful things you can do to help:
- Showing individuals respect and acceptance removes a significant barrier to successfully coping with their illness. Having people see you as an individual and not as your illness can make the biggest difference for someone who is struggling with their mental health.
- Advocating within our circles of influence helps ensure these individuals have the same rights and opportunities as other members of your church, school and community.
- Learning more about mental health allows us to provide helpful support to those affected in our families and communities.
Helpline in India:
The 24×7 Toll-Free Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline KIRAN (1800-599-0019) was launched by DEPwD, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2020, in 13 languages to provide relief and support to persons with Mental Illness and in view of the growing incidence of mental illness, particularly in the wake of Pandemic COVID-19.
On this World Mental Health Day, let’s commit to taking charge of our mental health. By understanding, acknowledging, addressing, and actively preventing mental health issues, we can create a more compassionate and mentally healthy society.
Photo Credits: Unsplash/Finn