To commemorate the issue of mental health which has increasingly become one of the most significant topics, for now, the world celebrates World Mental Health Day every year on October 10. This year on October 10, the WFMH president Dr. Ingrid Daniels announced the theme for World Mental Health day of ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World.’

This theme was decided after collective voting of WFMH members, supporters, and stakeholders due to the increasing chasm between rich and the poor which is exacerbated by factors like race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and gender identity. This gap and its causative factors are negatively impacting the mental health of individuals. 

Not only that, but this theme also reflects the unequal access to mental health services where a majority of people suffering from mental health disorders in low and middle-income countries are unsuccessful in accessing mental health services at all. This partially results from a lack of investments in mental health services which results in a mental health treatment gap. 

However, before we begin highlighting some of the key points of this year’s World Mental Health Global Awareness campaign, let’s take at history and understand the inception of World Mental Health Day.

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The history of World Mental Health Day

The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) was originally formed in 1948 due to the catastrophic consequences of war which had spread a dark blanket of crisis over the world. To tackle the post-war conditions, WFMH, UNESCO, UN, and WHO had collaborated with other global stakeholders and citizens to promote mental health well-being.

The first World’s Mental Health Day was observed on 10th October 1992 and was relegated as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health. When it was originally initiated, there was no specific theme; just promoting mental health awareness and education. For the first three years, it mainly focused upon broadcasting a two-hour telecast from the studios in Tallahassee, Florida. 

After two years, that is, in 1994, a theme for the Day was decided for the first time, as per the suggestion by the then secretary, ‘General Eugene Brody. The first-ever theme of the World’s Mental Health Day in 1994 was, ‘Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World.’ 

This kickstarted a series of feedbacks from various countries, including notable national campaigns in Australia and England. With the advancement of time, the campaign became a great event for cooperative societies, organizations, and other government departments to arrange programs and do activities for mental health care. 

Then in 1995, a month-long series of events were reported to the WFMH Secretariat which included a conference by the French Federation for Mental Health at the Ministry of Health and a community celebration in the Micronesian islands which are situated in the Pacific. 

Inequalities to access mental health services and the resulting despair

As mentioned earlier, due to the lack of financial resources in low and middle-income countries, a majority of people suffering from mental health disorders are unable to receive mental health treatment

Moreover, the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots exacerbates the situation and results in stigma and discrimination. This screams for the need to acknowledge and treat the mental health problem which is posing to be highly perilous even than a physical deformity or illness in people. 

People suffering from mental health disorders are often treated viewed from an unjust lens by society due to the attached stigma, which convolutes their mental health even more.  Additionally, they’re also divested of the educational and employment opportunities which they deserve and have a right to. 

Adding to the list is the emotional turmoil they have to go through when their families do not understand what’s wrong with them or that they even have to be treated in the first place. 

These poor circumstances spike the need for addressing inequality and taking necessary actions against it. It should not only be confined to the government or the higher authorities but inclusive of every living person. 

More often than not, people suffering from physical illnesses are also affected psychologically and their mental health is completely in distress. For instance, PCOS can cause sudden weight gain which can be a huge mental health issue for women considering the current stereotypes that run in society. 

The impact of COVID 19 on mental health

The COVID 19 pandemic exacerbated the issue of mental health inequality as no nation, be it rich or poor, was ready for this. From the beginning of the pandemic which was observed with global lockdown to the present situations, the mental health of people has significantly deteriorated. The reasons are many, a few of them include, death of loved ones, infection and the resulting illness, trauma, economic and financial distress, job insecurity, and social isolation. 

World Mental Health Day 2021: Mental health in an unequal world

An urgent redressal of these problems is requisite for a peaceful and healthy society. This year’s World Mental Health Day campaign, ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’, focuses on the issues that cause inequalities globally and locally for accessing mental health. Emphasis is laid on civil societies which will help in tackling inequality at micro-levels. 

Not only that, but the campaign also highlights its support to all the researchers to explore and share everything related to mental health inequality that will help in catalyzing the process. 

2020 was another global crisis for everyone in the world which not only unraveled the reality of the conditions that people live in but also worsened with increasing social, health, and economic inequalities. 

So, let’s come together and join hands in solidarity with the World Mental Health Day campaign 2021 to acknowledge the problem of mental health inequality and take necessary steps together for redressal. This way we ensure a good mind, and a good society.