October 10, 2019
The World Mental Health Day on 10th of October is an annual occasion to improve the mental health education, awareness and to advocate against the social stigma, so as to create a more compassionate and empathetic society. The World Mental Health Day 2019, as announced by the World Federation for Mental Health, focuses on “Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention”, as a crucial topic for the future of global mental health movement.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Mental health, like physical health, is an important matter to each and every one. We all may struggle with our mental well-being from time to time during various periods in our lives, and WHO has estimated, that one in four people will experience mental or neurological disorders during their lifetime. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness on the causes of mental health and well-being risk factors and to prioritize methods of self-care and self-awareness to reduce the number of mental disorders. Determinants of mental health can be put in three factors – individual attributes and behaviours, social and economic circumstances and environmental factors.
Individual attributes and behaviours can be described by emotional and social intelligence. If an individual lacks the natural ability to communicate and understand others, it can lead to low-self esteem, issues in solving problems and managing day-to-day stress.
Social and economic circumstances directly influence our well-being. By lacking a supportive social circle, not receiving physical security and safety, a sense of stability in life is lost and can cause psychological problems. Although work-related stress can negatively influence mental health as well, a constant flow of income means that in many cases work is a solution and not a problem.
Environmental factors, such as access to basic necessities, cultural stigma and laws can contribute to a negative self-image. Social and gender inequality and discrimination create a gap in society and feelings of isolation. Furthermore, global events, such as the financial crisis leave a significant effect on well-being. In addition, environmental factors also influence the success rate of potential recovery. Due to stigma and limited availability of appropriate health facilities, almost two-thirds of people with a diagnosed mental disorder do not seek professional help, according to the WHO.
Although there is little that can be done today to fully eradicate social inequality or poverty, there are a number of actions we can take in order to tackle some of the aforementioned factors.
A popular misconception is that physical and mental health are separate. In reality, they are closely connected and poor physical health can lead to poor mental health and vice versa. Often it is advised to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, but even 10 minutes per day, like a brisk walk, can positively increase well-being and emotional state. In addition, a balanced diet and a reduced amount of alcohol can significantly improve mental health.
When it comes to improvements in mental health, language is an important attribute. Avoiding cliches in our conversations and labelling people with mental health problems are a couple of ways how the language used can do a lot of harm. No matter if it is everyday distress, anxiety, depression or suicide, it is of high importance to use appropriate language, that does not diminish the individual and their current life experience.
Mental health improvements are crucial not only from the social but also economic perspective. Loss of labour supply, increased rate of unemployment, sickness absence and reduced productivity are potential results of. It is estimated that due to mental health disorders EU Member States lose 3% to 4% of their GDP, as stated in a European Parliament resolution on Mental Health in 2009.
According to Mental Health Europe, there is a 100% possibility of recovery for everyone suffering from mental health disorders*. Hence, it is important for stakeholders and changemakers to take a strong position and reduce the frequency of significant mental health problems.
Therefore AEGEE-Europe demands, that
- Governments add social and emotional intelligence in school curriculum including raising awareness on mental health literacy and appropriate language use.
- Governments, educational institutions and employers recognize the importance of physical health and promote physical health and regular exercise
- European Commission sets the mental health as one of the priorities of the Europan Social Fund Plus for the future EU budget (2021-2027).
* Here it is important to note the difference between disorders of the brain, that affect the mental health, and mental health disorders.