October 10 is globally marked as
World Mental Day each year. On this day, the World Health Organization (WHO) focuses
on raising awareness about mental health and dispel myths and stigma about
mental illnesses. It creates a platform that educates the general public on
mental illness and also enables them to mobilize support for people, doctors,
support and care workers and families dealing with mental health issues.
Mental health is a global challenge,
regardless of gender, class, religion or other forms of stratification. Mental
illness can affect anyone. According to WHO statistics (2001), an estimated 450
million people across the world have a mental
problem. Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental
health issues followed by other psychiatric disorders like bipolar
, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
personality disorders. Self-harm and suicides are some of the fallouts of
mental health issues.
A major challenge to mental
health issues is the stigma and discrimination. People with mental illnesses
are often forced to contend with societal abuse and oppression. Despite modern
advances in mental healthcare, community myths continue to exist and add to the
burden of mental illness. Apart from the illness, the person has to deal with
negative and discriminatory attitudes in society. Often people with mental
illness suffer verbal, physical and psychological abuse within their own
families. An ill-informed public coupled with negative portrayals of mental
illness in mass media create an environment of stigma and shame.
In developing countries like India, people with mental
illness (especially in some rural and remote areas) are often confined to small
rooms within the house and in some cases are even tied up. Myths about mental
illness being a curse of the gods continue to prevail and people are forced to
receive so-called cures from quacks like witch-doctors and local magicians.
People with mental illness often do not receive the right support whether
medical or psychosocial. Denied of basic human rights and access to healthcare,
their condition worsens. The only solution to dispel the myths and diffuse the
stigma of mental illness is concerted and relentless efforts in raising public
Consciousness-raising through a
platform like World Mental Health Day enables a range of country-wide campaigns
to make the public aware of mental health issues. The campaigns invite medical
, sufferers and others interested to
come together to inform and educate the general public. The idea is to make the
public aware that mental health issues are similar to physical health
conditions and require timely interventions and treatment. Clinical and
psychosocial interventions can alleviate the problem and enable mentally ill people
to lead a normal life.
World Mental Health Day is a
collaborative platform to bring together people and families, communities,
healthcare professional and caregivers on an equal footing to take charge of
mental health issues and deal with it as best as possible. World Mental Health
Day is a public campaign to inform and educate the public to bring about an
attitudinal shift towards mental illnesses.
"Dignity in Mental Health"
This theme is of great
significance considering that people with mental health issues are stigmatized
and do not have access to basic human rights. People with mental illness often
face abuse, discrimination and marginalization in education, healthcare,
employment, housing and other facilities. They are denied their rights in
accessing modern mental healthcare and drugs which can alleviate symptoms.
Health systems do not view the sufferer as a person in his/her own right and
deny any participation in his/her treatment. Mental illness sufferers are
infantilized and high-handed decisions taken by the family or the health system
without consulting the person. Denying basic human rights of decision making
has greater negative impacts on sufferers thus adding to the issue at hand.
This year's theme pushes for dignity to people with mental health issues by
affirming their personhood and right to take decisions in their healthcare.
The WHO will be focusing on human
rights oriented policies and legislations, ethical training for mental health
professionals, democratic participation in treatment programs and public
campaigns. The need of the hour is a compassionate, empathetic, ethical and
just approach to mental health issues and healthcare putting the person at the
centre of the system.
On this World Mental Health Day,
try to build dignity within people with mental illnesses by following a few
myths and stigma on mental illness
your fellow-mates to support people with mental illnesses
support system in your communities
Follow these tips to improve your
time for your friends and family
help if you are feeling depressed
a fun activity with kids
a positive attitude on life
a healthy diet
your alcohol intake
involved in social activities