Making Mental Health A Global Priority

While every day is a good opportunity to talk about mental health, awareness days are some of the best chances to have a conversation. Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, the latest opportunity to shrink the stigma and share our stories around mental health and mental health challenges. Every year brings a different theme that focuses on various aspects of mental health. This year, the theme for World Mental Health Day is “Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All A Global Priority.” Here’s why that matters, and why it’s important that mental health is a global priority.

As it turns out, this year is the 30th anniversary of World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO),

“The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.”

World Health Organization

There are two important aspects of the text above: 1) to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world, and 2) to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. While a lot of focus is placed on raising awareness, mobilizing efforts in support of mental health can be a struggle. Part of that reason is that while the stigma surrounding mental health is shrinking in some places, nothing has changed in others. If we really want to evaluate if our attitude toward mental health has changed as a society, we need to utilize a global perspective.

There are many days of awareness in the United States surrounding mental health. I like to use those opportunities to share statistics and resources related to mental health, but I don’t always look at things from a global perspective. After doing some research, I found the following statistics from WHO:

  • Mental health conditions now cause 1 in 5 years lived with disability.
  • Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have a mental health condition, with suicide the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds.
  • Approximately one in five people in post-conflict settings have a mental health condition.

Despite these troubling statistics, “…the global median of government health expenditure that goes to mental health is less than 2%,” according to the WHO. Despite the fact that the mental health crisis is as prevalent as ever, there isn’t enough time, energy and resources going into solving the problem. And that brings us to this year’s theme of making mental health and well-being a global priority.

It’s not enough to demand for more awareness – we need action. We need people, leaders, companies, schools, everyone to put their money where their mouth is. Mental health is not a trend and it’s not a fad. These global numbers show that there isn’t anywhere on this earth where mental health is not an issue, and it’s time to shine a light on that. It’s been encouraging to see more awareness and attention paid to mental health issues, but we are not close to prioritizing it the way we need. The sooner we do that, the sooner we’ll see real change.

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