Mental health: Steps towards a happier future
What is mental health?
Mental health is defined as the emotional, psychological, and social well-being which includes the way you think, feel and act . The World Health Organization (WHO) identified mental health as a basic human right which is needed to better connect, function, cope and thrive . According to the 2022 WHO report, 1 in 8 people around the world live with a mental disorder . The COVID-19 pandemic impacted mental health around the world, with the prevalence of anxiety and depression increasing by 25% . This adds to the urgency of improving these mental health statistics worldwide.
The World Mental Health Day is celebrated on the 10th of October. This year’s theme is ‘make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority'. Countries around the world have taken initiatives to support mental wellbeing of their citizens and correct mental health inequalities
Mental health status in the UK
Between 2019-2021, 20-30% of adults in the UK reported experiencing significant psychological distress . Young women between the ages of 16-24 years are 3 times more likely to have mental health issues than men. Men are less likely to reach out for help as only 36% of talking therapy referrals made consist of men . Certain groups like black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities have higher rates of mental health concerns compared to other population groups . In response to this, specific groups are working on supporting these population demographics:
- The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network
- Black Minds Matter
- Nafsiyat intercultural therapy: offers intercultural therapy in over 20 languages to people from diverse cultural communities
- Nilaari delivers therapies for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities
- Saheliya works with black, minority ethnic, asylum seeker, refugee and migrant women
- ManHealth provides peer support for men with mental health conditions.
The UK government has been working on improving mental health conditions by investing a £5 million grant to Mind charity and an additional £4.2 million to mental health charities like Samaritans, Young Minds and Bipolar UK . Over the next 3 years, the NHS is contributing £150 million towards mental health services .
Mental health initiatives around the world
The WHO introduced the Special Initiative for Mental Health in 2019  to increase accessibility to mental health with the goal of providing 100 million people in 12 countries with quality and affordable mental health care. This will be done through developing policies and supersizing community interventions. Read more here: https://www.who.int/initiatives/who-special-initiative-for-mental-health
Every Mind Matters  is a campaign by NHS England. Its goal is to empower people towards self-management of their mental health issues using evidence-based resources. There are also self-help guides and advice on helping others access mental health services. Their online tool called My Mind Plan provides a 5-questions quiz that can help identify mental wellbeing priorities and recommends action plans. This can be accessed at: https://www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/mental-wellbeing-tips/your-mind-plan-quiz/
IDONTMIND  is a campaign started in 2017 by Mental Health America to be inclusive and supportive towards open conversations about mental health. It provides an encouraging starting phrase “I don’t mind…” to empower individuals asking for help and talking about mental health issues. Many resources like journals, therapists’ columns, workshops can be accessed on https://idontmind.com/about
Opening Minds  started in 2009 and is reported to be the largest systemic effort in Canadian history to reduce stigma around mental health. The campaign focuses on young people, healthcare professionals, workplace, and the media. It hopes to improve understanding of mental health issues and open the conversation surrounding it. Its resources can be accessed here: https://mentalhealthcommission.ca/resources/
Beyond Blue  was created to support those with serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety. The campaign provides many ways of contact for those looking to reach out for help. There is a wide variety of resources, school-based programs, and training guides available. For individuals looking to learn more about their depression and anxiety measures, a checklist is designed which can be accessed at https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety-and-depression-checklist-k10
Bhutan is the first country to introduce the Gross National Happiness Index  in the 1970s to use wellbeing as a measure of the country’s progress. Psychological wellbeing is one of the 9 domains that is measured to assess development. 32.6% of the population was found to be ‘extensively happy’, and 8.3% reported to being ‘deeply happy’.
The world’s happiest places to live in
The World Happiness Report 2022  ranks 146 countries in accordance with social, economic, healthcare, and political aspects of society. Finland ranked at the top for the fifth time in a row. Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland took the next 3 spots. These are some of the best countries for mental health care. A deeper look into the lifestyle followed by their residents provides an insight to practices that you can adopt to improve your mental wellbeing.
- Finland: The Finns live by the term “sisu” which means resilience and determination during difficult situations . Maintaining a positive outlook and treating failures as learning opportunities are some ways of adopting this concept. This also encompasses integrity and being true to yourself to promote mental wellbeing .
- Denmark: The Danes have mastered the art of taking time off the daily grind to appreciate the simple things in life and reconnect with loved ones. This is called “hygge”  and is a part of their everyday life. During long winters, hygge could be playing board games or curling up with a good book. It could also be having a bonding conversation with friends over a warm cup of coffee.
- Iceland: The unofficial motto of Icelanders is “Þetta reddast”,  which simply means “everything will be okay in the end.” People are intrinsically optimistic, and this attitude helps to face life’s tribulations with a better mindset. Being grateful and making the best of every situation seems to be the recipe for Icelandic happiness.
- Switzerland: This country is known for its natural beauty and 70% of the population enjoy time spent in nature . Enjoying just 120 mins per week in nature is shown to have positive effect on mental health . It takes an under 20-minute walk in the park to boost your mental health.
One important aspect in mental health is the stigma attached to it. It hinders reaching out for help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides suggestions on navigating stigma :
- Seeking education and speaking openly about mental health
- Being compassionate towards those with mental issues and empowering them. It is important to be mindful of the manner of communication
- Encouraging equality between physical and mental illness and normalizing mental health treatment.
Starting from a personal level of self-care to supporting family and friends forms the basis of making mental health a priority for all.
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