World Mental Health Day is Oct. 10, 2021, and this year’s theme is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World.’
Mental health is critical to overall health and well-being, no matter who you are. But here in the U.S. and abroad, millions of people aren’t getting the care they need. World Mental Health Day is a time to bring awareness to the underlying issues and inspire people to take action.
Mental health stigma: This refers to widespread misconceptions about mental health, such as belief that seeking help for mental health makes someone weak. Stigma is harmful because it can cause people to avoid acknowledging, addressing or even talking about mental health concerns out of fear they’ll be judged or suffer professional consequences.
Stigma can disproportionately impact people from marginalized communities, such as people of color or LGBTQ+ individuals. Due to historical and ongoing injustice and discrimination, people from certain communities lack trust in any part of the health care system. People also may feel reluctant to take on an additional marginalized identity such as “mentally ill.” In some cultures, it’s also looked down upon to seek help, and can be seen as “airing dirty laundry.”
Socioeconomic inequality: The World Federation for Mental Health notes that health, economic and social inequalities continue to grow. A person’s socioeconomic status — their combination of education, income and occupation — plays a large role in their mental health status as well. People with less disposable income are less likely to be able to afford care.
Seeking and engaging with mental health care doesn’t just take money; it also requires non-monetary resources like time, transportation and even child care. People who don’t have a car, or whose jobs lack flexibility, often simply can’t find the time to get the care they need.
What can you do to help? Worldwide inequalities affecting the mental health of millions is a heavy topic, and it can leave us wondering what can possibly be done. But every little bit counts, so here are a few suggestions:
- Look after your own mental health: Making your mental health a priority will help you live a better life, and show up for the people you love, and even set an example for someone who’s hesitant to seek help.
- Take a stand against stigma: You can practice using “person-first” language to break down stigma: For example, saying “a person with schizophrenia” instead of “a schizophrenic.”
- Spread awareness: The more we know about mental health inequalities, the more we can take action in our everyday lives. Start by sharing the World Mental Health Day website with friends or family.
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Content provided by CU Health Plan