The issue of mental health in the world is a growing concern and even though awareness is rising; mental health is still a taboo topic in some countries and societies especially in Africa.
There is a story that trended on social media about a woman whose brother was constantly in his room with the lights out. She asked him why he was living that way and he told her that he was depressed; she laughed at him and a week later, his body was found floating in a nearby river. This is the extent to which most of us in Africa are ignorant to the issue of mental health. The woman is now a champion for mental health issues.
I myself have had my experience with mental health issues and also lost a friend who suffered from Paranoia-Schizophrenia to suicide. So, this post is personal.
What is World Mental Health Day?
World Mental Health Day is an international day that recognizes global mental health; it focuses on creating mental health awareness, education, and the advocacy against the social stigma experienced by survivors of mental illness. The first World Mental Health day was in 1992 and it was founded by the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and connections in more than 150 countries.
The official date of World Mental Health day is the 20th October of every year. This day is a wonderful initiative because it has done a lot by bringing issues of mental health into the minds of many and it has also educated millions of people around the world especially those suffering from one type of mental illness or the other. In some countries, this day is part of an awareness week, such as Mental Health Week in Australia
World Mental Health Day has become a great platform for those working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and the systems that need to be in put in place to make mental health care a reality for everyone in the world. Although world mental health day is a one-day event, it takes months of preparation and build-up to make it happen.
Each year has a theme and the theme for the year 2020 was Move for mental health: Increased investment in mental health; as a move to encourage more and better investments in the provision of mental health care.
Mental Health and the Pandemic
Good mental health is required for a society to prosper. Especially at a unique time as this, during a pandemic, good mental health is now more important than it has ever been. Without proper attention to mental health care, any response to the current pandemic will be short of helping individuals and the society fully recover from the economic, cultural and social damages caused by the pandemic.
2020 has been the hardest on our mental health so far. The danger of getting infected by the virus, lockdowns, isolation from loved ones and normal daily routines, and economic uncertainty (loss of jobs or reduced income) have created serious fear and anxiety in the hearts of many.
A Rapid Review published in The Lancet on the 14th of March showed the psychological effects of compulsory quarantines. Many people without previous mental health issues have come to realize that their mental health is in jeopardy due to the pandemic and enforced quarantines. While those with pre-existing mental health issues are finding it more difficult to manage their condition.
Why Every Day Should Be World Mental Health Day
Every day is World Mental Health Day, because your mind starts when you wake up and it will never stops until the day you pass on. Mental health care is more important than anything else. As important as physical health is, if someone is deemed clinically insane, then of what use are they to themselves and the society?
In Nigeria, when the census board goes about counting the citizens of this great nation, they never count the insane as part of the population. Because the clinically insane have nothing to add to the country. They are considered harmful to themselves and to others.
We can never do something that is not on our mind. To do something, we must first think about it to do it. And what if the only things on a person’s mind are destructive? What if all that a person’s mind projects are illusions? What if the only thoughts a person has are painful and negative thoughts? How can they be saved from a harmful mind? As individuals and a society, we must learn to cater to our minds and create mental health care systems to cater to mental and behavioural health; systems that must be affordable for all who need it.
Just like a person who wants to be fit goes to the gym almost every day and minds what and how they eat. So must we take care of our minds in the mental health gym. Can you leave a garden to weed and water itself? Absolutely not.
A strong healthy mind is one that will give you peace of mind irrespective of whatever is going on in your life; isn’t that the ultimate goal? Life will always have challenges but if we have a mind that can rise up to the challenge and keep stress away from our body as we go on, then we are good.
Mental health is not something that should be talked about only one day, one week or one month a year. It is something that should be talked about continuously until we are all aware of the issues an unkempt mind can bring.
I choose every day to care for my mind; I choose every day to spread the word of awareness. Join me and let’s make each other better on this journey of happiness called life.
If we don’t take care of the issues arising on mental health, soon we will have another pandemic on our hands; and a mental health pandemic will be far worse than Covid-19.
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It wasn’t an easy program for me to get through but when I finished it… I became a different person. I became very calm and peaceful, even at stressful times and staying calm at stressful moments has blessed me with the ability to make the best decisions at those moments. You need a strong mind, not only for yourself but for those around you… a strong mind is a happy mind.