This year, the theme of World Mental Health Day 2020 is focused on greater investment in mental health care and research. And it’s never been more needed
Over the past decade, mental health awareness campaigns have been changing lives. From individuals reaching out to their loved ones and communities, celebrities facing the media to shine a light on the realities of mental health, charities and organisations working tireless to offer resources and advice, and online activists leading the conversation and reaching millions through their networks – this work is invaluable.
But, once individuals have worked through the challenges they faced before feeling comfortable to reach out for help, many are then at a loss of where to go next – often facing long waiting lists where, according to research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in four people with mental health problems were waiting at least three months before they were able to start NHS treatment.
These are disheartening findings and, what’s more, they are reflective of a greater deprioritisation of mental health care. It’s a disparity that’s highlighted by charity MQ, who found that UK funding for mental illness research equates to £8 per person, compared with £178 per person for cancer and £110 for dementia.
Overall, just 6% of UK health research spending goes to mental health, despite the fact that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lifetime. And this isn’t just a UK-based problem. According to WHO, globally, countries spend only 2% of their health budgets on mental health.
But beyond the numbers, these findings have very real effects on the lives of people living with mental illnesses. And as we are beginning to understand the global mental health impact of the Covid-19 crisis, greater investment has never been more needed.
World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on the everyday realities of mental health, signpost resources, and collectively discuss the next steps. This year, the campaign is greater investment, greater access.
“This year’s World Mental Health Day, on 10 October, comes at a time when our daily lives have changed considerably as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” writes the World Health Organisation.
“Given past experience of emergencies, it is expected that the need for mental health and psychosocial support will substantially increase in the coming months and years. Investment in mental health programmes at the national and international levels, which have already suffered from years of chronic underfunding, is now more important than it has ever been.”
It’s a sentiment that is shared by many, and one echoed by Dr Ingrid Daniels, president of the World Federation for Mental Health.
“Quality and accessible mental health care is an undeniable right and part of the foundation for universal health coverage. Every nation – every voice needs to move and call for greater investment in mental health. Our key activations over the next few weeks through our coordinated efforts and activities with our collaborating partners will ensure that this year we will have the greatest impact in shifting the investment in mental health agenda,” writes Dr Daniels.
“Our call is a simple one – let us hold hands and unify our voices in moving the mental health investment agenda for increased focus and access to mental health and thereby making mental health a reality for all – everyone, everywhere.”
What can I do to support greater investment?
It’s easy to feel hopeless in the face of such intimidating challenges, but there are some practical things that you can do to get involved with the movement.
- Make some noise. Join in the conversation online, using the hashtags #WorldMentalHealthDay. We have power in numbers, so never underestimate the value of adding your voice to the cause. Share resources and experiences – you never know who might need to see them.
- Donate to causes. If you can, you can donate to mental health charities who work tirelessly to campaign all year round, and who are investing in research.
- Sign petitions. There are many active petitions that are bringing very important issues to light. Search on sites like change.org and petition.parliament.uk to discover causes that resonate with you.
While World Mental Health Day highlights some vital changes that need to take place, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the progress that we have made, and to celebrate the work that is already being done. Consider the ways that greater mental health awareness has touched your own life, and the lives of your loved ones, and take comfort in the unity of voices all around the globe, who believe in, and are working for, a better, kinder future.