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Overall health is not just about the body. Mental health plays an integral part in every person’s psychological and physical wellbeing. It’s impossible for the human experience to avoid moments of sadness, loss or depression. More than 43 million Americans – one in five – cope with some form of mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), yet the stigma surrounding mental illness keeps many of them from asking for help.
“Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World” is the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, held on October 10th and supported by the World Federation for Mental Health.
The intent of this year’s theme, says the Federation’s website, is to help bring “mental health out of the shadows so that people in general feel more confident in tackling the stigma, isolation and discrimination that continues to plague people with mental health conditions, their families and careers.”
Psychiatric issues, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, manifest for a wide range of reasons. Though they play a role, genetics are not the sole reason for mental illness. Addiction, sexual abuse, violence or even the death of a family member or loved one, all of which increase mental distress, can cause bouts of mental illness. Extended isolation and loneliness, though not seemingly traumatic, are just as likely to bring about poor mental health.
Observing World Mental Health Day benefits the public at large by:
- Teaching people mental first-aid skills so they’re able to support a person experiencing psychiatric distress, especially first responders who are so often put in the position of coping with these situations
- Lessening the stigma associated with mental illness and promoting respect in the treatment of people living with these conditions
- Enabling individuals who may be suffering in silence to come forward and get the treatment they need before their condition worsens
- Promoting the integration of physical and mental health and the impact that both have on the other.
- Establishing greater access to health providers
The Mental Health Foundation writes, “In a global context, there is a need to ensure that when crisis events occur, part of the humanitarian response is appropriate and timely mental health support – including psychological first aid.”
The World Health Organization recognizes the importance of these practices and in 2011 published a 64 page booklet called “Psychological First Aid: Guide for field workers,” which is available in 20 different languages. According to the overview, the “guide covers psychological first aid, which involves humane, supportive and practical help to fellow human beings suffering serious crisis events.”
For October 10th, World Mental Health Day, take the time to participate in, or start a discussion about mental health issues with friends, family and colleagues. Consider how you might be able to be of assistance to those in your community living with poor mental health and how you can practice good mental health in your own day-to-day life. After all, there is no true health without good mental health.
Mental Health Facts Infographic
The Mental Health Facts infographic here, can be found along with others on the NAMI website.