The 2016 World Mental Health Day is close to many people’s hearts because psychological and mental health first aid is a theme that every citizen of the world can embrace. It provides a global opportunity and platform to increase community awareness of mental health issues and the recognition of early signs of a mental health problem so that we can act early. As we all know nobody is immune because mental distress can affect any one of us.
Stigma and discrimination continue to affect many people who experience mental health issues and there continues to be poor investment in mental health which results in poorer health outcomes. There is a gap between mental health needs and what is actually provided and we must continue to work with the WHO to address this because it is not right.
At least one in four adults experience mental health difficulties at any one time, and those that support them are also touched by the problem so highlighting mental health on one day a year in October is not enough. We know that somewhere in the world today a person dies every 40 seconds as a result of suicide, a preventable condition. Many people with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and epilepsy are getting little or no help and alcohol and substance misuse remains a major problem.
About 10 percent of the world’s population is affected by a diagnosable mental disorder and 20 percent of children and adolescents suffer from some form of diagnosable mental disorder. It is estimated that mental disorder accounts for 30 percent of the non-fatal disease burden worldwide so the continued lack of investment in mental health is a short-sighted approach because, in the long run, nations and society pay more. This is why global events such as World Mental Health Day are very important for every single one of us because they provide an opportunity for us to come together as a global family to advocate for mental health and provide the evidence that enables government to do the right thing.
As the 42nd President of the World Federation for Mental Health, it is a great honor and privilege for me to serve and also launch World Mental Health Day 2016. I am filled with hope that parity between mental and physical health is within our reach during our lifetime because we have you.
The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) was founded in 1948, the same year as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. It is the oldest mental health organization in official relations with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Health Agency. WFMH has a long history of advocacy for improving mental health care, promoting mental health, and educating the public about mental disorders. It established World Mental Health Day (10 October) in 1992 as a way to expand public education, using annual themes and providing specially prepared educational material.
I know that many of you have been doing so much to promote psychological and mental health first aid over many years and will continue to do so - for this I salute you. I am very pleased that we are highlighting psychological and mental health first aid as a mental and physical health parity issue and that many people around the world have taken up the cause of psychological and mental health first aid to make it globally available by taking action in many ways, big and small.
In London, Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group are using this year’s theme to highlight the need to improve access to psychological therapies to the whole population, the London Borough Tower Hamlets are holding a breakfast meeting with local businesses to highlight the importance of using mental health first aid to improve the work environment and are providing free Mental Health First Aid training for health and social care staff working in their borough. The Argentinian Mental Health Association and the Taiwan Mental Health Associations have been holding a series of themed events to highlight psychological and mental health first aid and the World Organisation of Family Doctors (Wonca) has directly communicated with its 600,000 members to highlight the importance of psychological and mental health first aid. Mental Health First Aid England have developed a toolkit that is freely available to support this year’s World Mental Health Day 2016 theme including a thunderclap and I urge you to carry out your own events and let WFMH know what you have done or what you are planning to do. I will be launching World Mental Health Day at the WHO in Geneva during the mhGAP Moving Forward with the Global Mental Health Agenda Meeting and then traveling to Cairns in Australia to continue to advocate for mental health.
I know that we are effective because we are working together as a global family and there is a lot of good news to report. Governments are also contributing. For instance, the USA is using the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2015 (S. 711/H.R. 1877) to continue their investment in Mental Health First Aid. I am also aware that many countries and states are also finding ways to invest in this endeavor.
This year’s World Mental Health Day theme on Psychological and Mental Health First Aid has the potential to reduce the stigma of mental health problems and to narrow social distance so that the general public can feel confident helping someone experiencing a mental health problem rather than walking away from them. As a society, if we embrace the principles of psychological and mental health first aid we increase our capability of helping to stop a mental illness from getting worse, of preventing someone from hurting themselves or others and helping a person affected by mental ill health to recover faster because these principles give us all the skills to guide someone towards the right support. I am full of hope and confidence that parity between mental and physical health is within our reach because so many different people, organizations and governments are working towards this.
As President of WFMH I set the following three objectives for my term of office:
- To address the stigma associated with mental ill-health
- To empower people to take action to promote mental health
- To spread understanding of the equal importance of mental and physical health
Many individuals and organizations have collaborated with WFMH to support these goals. As part of my advocacy work I have met many people and I have been touched by many stories that I have heard. This is why I am making a direct appeal to you today to join us at WFMH so that you can influence the global mental health advocacy agenda, participate in choosing World Mental Health Day themes and educational materials and participate in the WFMH leadership election process (http://wfmh.com/index.php/membership?id=21 ).
It is wrong for mental health to continue to remain in the shadows. There are many stories of suffering and indignity but suffering is not inevitable. We can all do something to stop this human suffering…
Symptoms are not a barrier to recovery but attitude is. Don’t be a bystander be a first-aider. Please use this year’s World Mental Health Day to make a true difference
Professor Gabriel Ivbijaro MBE, JP
MBBS, FRCGP, FWACPsych, MMedSci, MA, IDFAPA
President World Federation for Mental Health(WFMH)
Chair The World Dignity Project
The Wood Street Medical Centre, 6 Linford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 3LA, UK
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