Wellbeing and Mental Health

What is World Mental Health Day?

Scrabble letters displaying the words mental health on World Mental Health Day.

World Mental Health Day is on 10th October. Image: Unsplash/Total Shape

Douglas Broom
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  • One in eight people around the globe live with mental health conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.
  • This year’s World Mental Health Day is a chance to rekindle efforts to improve mental health, says the World Health Organization.
  • Innovation and coordinated action can reverse deteriorating global mental health, experts say.

At least one in eight of us is affected by mental health issues.

And World Mental Health Day 2022 on 10 October is a chance to “rekindle our efforts to protect and improve mental health,” says the World Health Organization (WHO).

The COVID-19 pandemic alone caused a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. It created “a global crisis for mental health,” according to the WHO, while services, skills and funding for mental health “remain in short supply, and fall far below what is needed, especially in low and middle-income countries,” it adds.

As well as anxiety and depression caused by the pandemic, the WHO says growing social and economic inequalities, protracted conflicts, violence and public health emergencies affecting whole populations are threatening progress towards improved wellbeing.

The mental health treatment gap

At least 84 million people were forcibly displaced by conflicts and natural disasters in 2021 at the same time as which, the WHO says, mental health services have been severely disrupted, and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened.

People with mental health conditions die prematurely - as much as 20 years earlier than the average - due to preventable physical conditions, WHO figures show. They are also more likely to suffer severe human rights violations, discrimination and stigma in some countries.

A chart showing percentage of respondents worldwide who felt anxiety or depression for more than two weeks as of 2020, by country income and age
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. Image: Statista

An estimated 12 billion working days are lost each year to depression and anxiety, which the WHO estimates costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion. Even where help is available, stigma and discrimination prevent many people from getting the care they need.

The United Nations’ Good Health and Well-being Sustainable Development Goal calls for 80% of nations to integrate mental health into primary healthcare by 2030. However, WHO data published in 2021 showed only 25% of nations had a system in place to do so.

Helping young people’s mental health

Young people are particularly affected by mental health issues. The WHO says almost one in seven adolescents aged 10 to 19 live with some form of mental health condition. Suicide is the fifth most prevalent cause of death in this age group - 45,800 die each year, one every 11 minutes.

Almost one in five 15-24-year-olds in a global survey for the WHO reported that they often felt depressed and had little interest in doing things. According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, half of mental health conditions are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.

The World Economic Forum’s Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform is helping to find new ways of helping young people with mental health conditions. Its Youth Mental Health Challenge attracted 75 solutions to tackle the issue.

The 14 winning innovations - from smartphone-delivered therapy and training for young people in conflict zones to a crisis counselling service for LGBTQI+ people - will now receive funding from initiative sponsor Salesforce to help them become operational.

Taking action on mental health

Events to mark World Mental Health Day 2022 this year range from an international conference for mental health professionals in Italy to an improvised theatre event in Delhi, India, to raise awareness of the stigma around talking about suicidal thoughts.

This year’s #WorldMentalHealthDay theme is: “Make mental health & wellbeing for all a global priority”.

The WHO is clear about what needs to happen: “We must deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health as individuals, communities and governments and match that value with more commitment, engagement and investment by all stakeholders, across all sectors.”


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