Mental Health for All. Greater Investment – Greater Access.

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    Md. Rakibul Islam

    The COVID-19 pandemic has brought great disruptions and immense challenges for all across the globe. Many people are afraid of infection, dying and losing family members.

    People have been physically distanced from their support networks and many are grieving the deaths of loved ones. Millions of people face economic turmoil, having lost or being at risk of losing their incomes and livelihoods. Uncertainty and major changes to the way we live our lives are having a considerable impact on our mental health. People living with such mental or physical health conditions experience significant disruptions in their care. In every community, older adults, including those with underlying health or neurological sufferings, remain uniquely vulnerable. Children and adolescents also face disrupted education and ambiguity about their futures. Due to family stress and social isolation, many have been exposed to higher rates of abuse or neglect. The impact of these unprecedented uncertainties, occurring at critical points in their emotional and cognitive development, cannot be understated.

    Women are also bearing a heavy burden as a result of the pandemic. Gender-based violence is also increasing as many women and girls endure confinement at home with their abusers, while services to support survivors have, in some cases, been disrupted. The United Nations (2020) states that, “Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times. It must be front and center of every country’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently” (UN, Policy Brief, 2020).

    “Despite hundreds of millions of people around the world living with mental disorders, mental health has remained in the shadows,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, almost one billion people were living with mental disorders and nearly US$ 1 trillion was lost annually in lost productivity due to the depression and anxiety alone. The World Economic Forum (2018) noted that mental health disorders are on the rise in every country in the world and could cost the global economy up to $16 trillion between 2010 and 2030 if a collective failure to respond is not addressed.

    One person in every four will be affected by a mental disorder at some stage of their lives. The treatment gap remains large with 50% of people with mental disorders in high income countries and 85% of persons in low and middle income countries having no access to treatment (WHO, 2012). The mental health consequences of COVID-19 superseded by an already overburdened mental health landscape in which the number of people living with depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50% from 416 million to 615 million (WHO, 2016). The National Institute of Mental Health has released the result of survey titled ‘‘National Mental Health Survey, Bangladesh 2018-19”, with the technical guide from the world Health Organization (WHO) to show that Nearly 17% of adults in Bangladesh are suffering from Mental health issues, where 16.8% are men and 17% are women, among them 92.3% do not seek medical attention.

    What is World Mental Health Day?

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

    World Mental Health Day, a programme of the World Federation for Mental Health, annually raises awareness within the global community about the mental health challenges, gaps and priorities through collaborative and unifying voices aimed at taking action, addressing and creating lasting change in a world where we need to restore the dignity of all living with mental health needs. World Mental Health Day was first observed on 10 October 1992 as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health aimed at promoting mental health advocacy and educating the public on relevant issues. Celebrated on the 10th October, it provides an opportunity to place the spotlight on the mental health challenges experienced in our world today. WFMH was launched in London, UK in August 1948 at an International Congress on Mental Health. It aimed to promote mental health and citizenship, mutual understanding through cooperation across professional boundaries, the establishment of mental health services in every country of the world and the promotion of education about mental health, with the aim of empowering people, who deliver and receive mental health services. At its inception WFMH recognized the need to highlight excellence by awarding prizes for significant research, scientific publications and outstanding initiative and excellence in mental health services to inspire others and raise standards in mental health.

    World Mental Health Day established in 1992 would not have become a reality but for the work of Richard (Dick) Hunter, the Deputy Secretary General of the World Federation for Mental Health. Richard Hunter built on the goodwill of many to ensure that our annual World Mental Health Day celebration on the 10th October became a reality. With Richard Leighton, a television producer, he made a global telecast the central feature of worldwide activities. Subsequently the World Health Organization agreed to become a co-sponsor, and the project was also supported by the Carter Center, when former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter agreed to become Honorary Chair of the event.

    This year’s World Mental Health Day theme ‘mental health for all: greater investment – greater access’ provides us with an opportunity to re-affirm the founding principles of the World Federation for Mental Health. The WFMH family cannot achieve this alone. Every one of us has to play our part. This year’s corona virus pandemic has affected everybody and highlighted how poorly prepared many nation states are to address mental health wellbeing during a time of global crisis.

    We know that mental, neurological and substance use disorders exact a high toll on health outcomes, accounting for 13% of the total global burden of disease (WHO, 2012). Fragile health systems have not been able to address or cope with the large treatments gaps and need for mental health care.

    Significance of world mental health day:

    1. Identify the problem: The idea of the mind is an abstract concept and this day allows us to think about our thoughts. We’re evolving beyond outdated perceptions and releasing the stigma of mental health so that we can properly diagnose it and take care of ourselves. With the burden and fear removed from mental health issues, the battle becomes considerably easier.
    2. Share your pain: This day reminds you that whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone. Too often we think that we’re the only ones facing a hard time. It’s uplifting to know that other people have gone through it and made it out the other end. It reminds you that you can overcome your own pain.
    3. Proper treatment: As our understanding of mental health grows, so does our ability to seek proper treatment. With the right therapist and necessary medication, you can operate on a more efficient level. The more accepting we are and the more funding that’s put into research and mental healthcare the greater the global impact.

    World Mental Health Day is simply not a one day event and provides us with the opportunity and advantage to hold the attention of governments, donors, policy-makers and all stakeholders to ensure action for greater investment in mental health. This year the call to action “greater investment in mental health” has to be headed and cannot be ignored in the current COVID-19 pandemic environment. It is unquestionable that mental health is a human right and thus, now more than ever, it’s time for mental health for all. Every nation – every voice needs to move and call for greater investment in mental health. So let us hold hands and unify our voices in moving the mental health investment agenda for increased focus and access to mental health and thereby making mental health a reality for all – everyone, everywhere.

    (Writer is Msc. Student of Applied Nutrition and Food Technology in the Islamic University, Kusthia.)


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