World Mental Health Day (WMHD) will be on Sunday, October 10th. This day aims to bring awareness to mental illness and mental health and this year efforts are specifically focused on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and the disrupted services so many rely on. Some populations that are highlighted this year are students, frontline workers, and those with previously diagnosed mental health conditions. Beyond the effects of the pandemic, the campaign also focuses more specifically on depression and suicide.
Overall, the main goal with WMHD is awareness. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental illness in yourself and others can be life-changing, and live-saving. One of the most common mental illnesses is depression affecting around 1 in 6 people at some point in their lives, translating to around 16.6% of the worldwide population. Symptoms of depression can include: loss of energy, anxiety, disrupted sleep or eating patterns, feelings of worthlessness, and, at worst, thoughts of self-harm or suicide. To learn about other common mental health symptoms, check out the link to the Mayo clinic down below. If you have noticed these depression symptoms in yourself or someone around you, there are so many opportunities to help out there. The first step to treatment for yourself would be to talk to someone, whether that be a trusted loved one or a professional. Remember, you deserve help.
What can you do to support others around you? For World Mental Health Day… maybe make a plan on Oct 10th to reach out to someone who you think may be struggling. Try and connect with them. Let them know you’ve been thinking about them. Ask them how they are doing. Then really listen. May we never forget the power of listening.
Another one of the simplest yet most powerful ways to be a mental health ally is to increase your own attention to eliminate harmful language from your vocabulary. In daily conversations, using words like “crazy” or “psycho” can perpetuate the stereotypes of mental illness that ultimately make productive conversations about mental health impossible. When we act as if those with mental illnesses are beyond help and dangerous, the outcome is only pushing those away that deserve help and adding an element of blame to their situation. When discussing mental health, avoid discriminatory and stigmatizing terms like “psychotic”, “neurotic”, and “nutter”. Also, avoid flippant phrases that are more specific to certain mental illnesses. Things like “that’s depressing” or saying you’re bipolar when experiencing normal mood changes are insensitive to those living with the disorders. Our language matters, and makes a difference.
Mental illness is a rising problem with around 1 billion people currently suffering with a mental health condition. That being said, it is important to remember that health is not just the opposite of mental illness. Mental health means you can have the highest quality of life and are able to be present in the events and experiences in your life. It also means you are able to utilize healthy coping mechanisms to adequately participate in anything life throws your way. Based on these features of mental health, are you mentally healthy? What do you do that helps you stay mentally healthy?
If you or someone you know is suffering with a mental illness, please consult the links below for more information on inclusive language, WMHD campaign materials and hotlines. Through understanding and awareness of mental illnesses, no matter how small, we can help the world. Happy World Mental Health Day!
Samantha Morel, Ph.D.