World Mental Health day this year falls on Sunday 10th October. This year’s theme was set by the World Federation for Mental Health:
“Mental Health in an Unequal World”
The world is still reeling from the physical and mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it be recovering from the virus itself, suffering with the grief of losing a loved one, the economic impact of job loss or worries regarding job insecurity and the difficulties of isolating and being away from loved ones. In the UK during the pandemic, mental health referrals doubled for children and young people and monthly referrals to mental health services hit their highest point in 2 years. In addition, as well as the pandemic, there are many people who have physical illnesses or physical capabilities who continue to experience mental health difficulties, for example visual or auditory impairment.
The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day was chosen to highlight that despite the increase in need for mental health services over the last 18 months, the access to these services remains unequal.
Research has shown 75%-95% of people with mental disorders in low and middle income countries are unable to access mental health services at all with the statistics in high income countries not showing much improvement. The continued stigma and discrimination towards people who suffer from mental health difficulties affects their physical health as well as educational opportunities, future earning and job prospects and relationships with their families and loved ones.
The aim of this year’s World Mental Health day topic is to focus on the issues locally and around the world that contribute to mental health inequality. The World Federation for Mental Health aim to support local societies and researchers to play an active role in tackling inequality.
Problem areas – what should the response be?
The response to the unequal access to mental health services must be met across all levels, not just medical access but through society, community, individuals and households, and access to everyone from all racial, social and economic backgrounds.
1. Better access to support
There are many treatments and services on offer across the UK but they are only available with substantial waiting lists and often there are people who are too unwell for some types of support but not unwell enough for others.
2. Joined-up services
Better integration of services is required through primary, secondary and voluntary systems but also outside the hospital and clinic setting, for example services and support at work, schools, churches and in the community to ensure full coverage and access.
3. Acknowledging distrust
Many people who have utilised mental health support before and those in particular involved with section or voluntary admission under the Mental Health Act may have formed a distrust with the process or system which leaves them reluctant to request help when needed.
Support in the UK
Mental health services are free to access via the NHS, but in some cases you’ll need a referral from your GP. There are some mental health services that allow self-referrals but these are mostly services for drug problems and alcohol problems, as well as NHS psychological therapies services (IAPT). If your mental health difficulties are related to stress at work, you can ask your employer what occupational health services are available to you.
Mind have a specific Coronavirus hub with tips and guides to dealing with all kinds of mental health difficulties, from anxiety of wearing masks to accessing support during isolation. Mind also have an “infoline” that provides advice on mental health problems and where to get support near you.
Rethink are the leading provider of mental health services in England, providing over 200 different services. Rethink offer mental health training and support to carers, and services to help people through crises and assistance to live independently.
ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19, providing all kinds of support from homework and revision to sports and exercise. They provide telephone and online counsellors at any time for free.
SHOUT is the UK’s first 24/7 text support service for anyone in crisis at any time of the day, anywhere in the country. The service is free for most mobile phone providers, is anonymous and won’t appear on your phone bill.
To support World Mental Health Day, visit https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/world-mental-health-day where you can find out how to support the campaign and find helpful resources and links for support.