Today is World Mental Health Day!! And I think it is such an incredibly important day as mental health and those affected still face stigmatization on a nearly daily basis. It is a topic that needs to be normalized and spoken/written about much more openly!
After last year’s theme for World Mental Day was “mental health in the workplace” this year’s theme is “young people and mental health in a changing world”.
Nearly half of all mental illness begin by the age of 14, but often go undetected and therefore untreated with suicide being one of the leading causes of death in 15- to 29-year olds. One of the major forms of mental illness is depression, which is one of the leading causes of disability world wide and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease with over 300 million people affected; numbers are still increasing yearly. Although there are treatments for depression, fewer than half (and in some countries even less than 10%) of people affected receive treatment, partially due to lack of infrastructure, ineffective care, not properly trained health care professionals etc. In worst case scenarios mental illnesses lead to suicide, with nearly 800 000 people dying due to suicide every year.
As for young people in a changing world… adolescence and early adulthood is marked with a lot of changes and a new range of responsibilities. We are faced with new tasks at a time where we often don’t have a toolbox (more on that later) with tools or skills for situations we feel to be difficult or even overwhelming. If there is more stress (in different forms) than we are able to cope with this can lead to mental illness. If we haven’t learnt the proper coping skills for dealing with these situations or stressors it can lead to harmful use of alcohol, drugs, sex or even self-harm or eating disorders as a way to cope. And I’ve used nearly all of them in different situations as a way to deal.
On a more positive note- I feel there is slowly but surely a bigger acceptance in society for mental illness (granted we still have an extremely long way to go) and a lot more focus in providing information and help for those affected. We need to put a lot more focus on helping children at school and students accepting mental illnesses, train them to recognise warning signs and symptoms in themselves or others so they are more willing to get help or know what to do in certain situations. There should also be classes or courses on building mental resilience and finding one’s own tools so that everyone has a better chance at dealing with challenges in every day life. “Mental health days” should be a thing just like being able to take a sick day.
All in all I feel like the conversation around mental health is staring to go in the right direction and we are all doing our small part!