World Mental Health Day - History & Significance

World Mental Health Day - History & Significance

Mental health has become an increasingly important issue during the pandemic. While there has been growing awareness, t

Mental health has become an increasingly important issue during the pandemic. While there has been growing awareness, there is a need to encourage the conversation to address the stigma associated with it. This World Mental Health Day, we want to share with you not just its history and origins but also how you can help strengthen this moment. 

What is World Mental Health Day and why is it important?

World Mental Health Day is an international day designated for spreading global mental health education and its awareness. It is celebrated annually on October 10th. On this day, thousands of impacted patients and their supporters come together to bring global attention to this topic and positively affect people’s lives. 

This day is important because, despite continuous advancements in its treatment, research, and awareness efforts, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. There are still many people who feel stigmatized because of their mental condition. Many people can’t relate to this problem until they are directly impacted by a tragedy. Hence, spreading awareness this day every year is an effort to promote a proactive and positive approach to addressing mental illness.

Mental illness needs specialized attention and delaying treatment may result in issues like:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Aches, pains, and digestive disorders
  • Higher risk of strokes, heart attacks, and obesity
  • Difficulty managing daily life
  • Suicide

Events like World Mental Health Day are crucial as there are significant gaps in mental health care worldwide that have been worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Did you know?

  • Nations on average spend less than 2% of their medical budget on mental health services
  • Nearly 1 billion people are combating mental health in lower-income countries
  • More than 75% of people suffering from mental illness do not receive any treatment
  • COVID-19 has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in almost 93% of the countries around the globe

History of World Mental Health Day 

The very first mental health awareness day was celebrated on 10th October 1992 by the then Deputy Secretary-General Richard Hunter. It was started as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global organization with members in more than 150 countries. 

There was no specific theme for the day in the beginning and it only promoted general mental health advocacy and public education on relevant issues. For the first three years, the day was marked with a two-hour broadcast telecast globally from studios in Tallahassee, Florida with live telephone participation from England, Australia, Chile, and Zambia combined with pre-taped segments from Mexico City, Geneva, and Atlanta. 

The board members across these locations were overwhelmed with the response to this day and within three years; it became a valuable occasion for both government, private organizations, and committed individuals, focusing on different aspects of mental health care. 

It was 1994 when this day was celebrated with its first-ever theme "Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World" at the suggestion of the then Secretary-General Eugene Brody. Today, this movement is supported by WHO and ministries of health and civil organizations across the world. The theme of World Mental Health Day this year is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.

Mental Health FAQs

Are employees entitled to take time off for mental health issues?

Depending on your provincial legislation and employer, you may have access to mental health or personal wellness days. Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 of Canada, employees can take sick leave for stress or related mental health issues.  

How can you support World Mental Health Day? 

  • Tell a friend or talk with people you know
  • Educate yourself on mental health issues
  • Volunteer at mental health events
  • Leverage social media to spread the word
  • Talk about your experiences
  • Donate to charities associated with mental health

Is there a symbol for mental health?

The international symbol for mental health awareness is a green ribbon.

What are the symptoms of mental illness?

The symptoms of mental illness may vary from person to person  but common ones include: 

  • Feeling sad or down 
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Constant mood changes
  • Extreme feelings of guilt
  • Withdrawing themselves from social gatherings
  • Sleep irregularities, significant tiredness, and low on energy

How can I support a person with mental illness?

  • You can start by listening without judgment 
  • Show patience and concentrate on what they need right then 
  • Ask them what would help them 
  • Avoid any sort of confrontation
  • Be available for them 
  • Encourage them to seek professional help

These are general tips only, but you should also consider providing resources for professional help from resources like the Suicide Prevention Hotline, CAMH (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), or a local therapist. 

What are the factors that contribute to positive mental health?

  • Receiving professional help in a timely manner 
  • Connecting with loved ones and staying positive 
  • Being physically active and being well-rested  
  • Working with a mental health professional 

World Mental Health Day is an international day for raising awareness for mental health issues around the globe and making efforts in support of mental health, its education, and advocacy against social stigma. Being aware of the potential signs and symptoms of mental illness can help yourself or a loved one proactively seek care. On this World Mental Health Day, let’s not make it a one-day event but a long-term effort to help people who are most affected by mental illness.

Read more about Mednow's holistic approach to patient care and get started with Mental Health Check.

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