Wellbeing and Mental Health

How to protect your mental health - latest advice from the World Health Organisation

Mental health is a leading cause of disability, the WHO says.

Mental health is a leading cause of disability, the WHO says. Image: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Mental Health

This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare

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  • This episode of the World Health Organization's Science in 5 video series looks at mental health.
  • In an interview with the WHO's Vismita Gupta-Smith, mental health expert Dr Mark Van Ommeren explores the impact of the pandemic and offers some advice for staying mentally healthy.
  • Mental health as a leading cause of disability, says the WHO.

In its latest Science in 5 video, the World Health Organization (WHO) tackles the topic of mental health. Dr Mark Van Ommeren explores the findings of the international organisation's latest World Mental Health Report, as well as the impact of the pandemic.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing about mental health?

Mental health: A leading cause of disability

"For an individual, when they have a mental health condition, such as depression, it's actually very impairing," Dr Mark Van Ommeren says.

The WHO describes mental health as a leading cause of disability, and Van Ommeren says the main reason for sick leave in many workplaces is mental health – although this is often not discussed.

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The pandemic's impact on mental health

"The pandemic has been very hard on people's lives and it has really shone a light on mental health." Van Ommeren explains that rates of anxiety and depression rose by about 25% during the first year of the pandemic.

Those with pre-existing severe mental illness are more likely to catch the virus, more likely to be severely ill, and more likely to die as a result of COVID-19, he adds.

Mental health conditions are widespread, under-treated and under-resourced.
Under-treated and under-resourced: mental health is a widespread, worldwide challenge. Image: World Health Organization
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Keeping mentally healthy

There are a number of things people can do to stay mentally healthy, Van Ommeren says. These include staying physically active and avoiding alcohol, which can 'make mental health problems more complex to overcome'.

And every day you should do something that's enjoyable or meaningful – which could be as simple as going for a walk. He also suggests trying stress-management techniques, such as mindfulness.

Most important, though, is to seek help if you need it from a health professional. Or, if one isn't available, then talk to a trusted person in your community.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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