by Sonia Said
Image: Andy Zurich / Flickr
There might be no better time to talk about Mental Health than now. Why? Because like women’s day, everyday should be Mental Health awareness day. And during the current pandemic of the Covid-19, people have been more and more concerned. Mental health is an extensive part of our everyday lives, as it is associated with our well-being; more precisely, “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” Our lives are directly affected by our Mental Health; the way we feel, behave or interact with others is related to our mental state.
The problem lies in the stigma, the neglect and the lack of awareness of our Mental Health. Now, whether we accept it or not, Mental Health is part of Health.
The urgency of Mental Health
The abundant academic and non-scholarly resources confirms the seriousness of the matter. In that sense, because it is shaping the way we interact with the world, the risk of denying or dismissing our mental health can be disastrous. In reality, a vulnerable emotional state for instance, can disrupt our everyday life. Similarly, states of anxiety, grief, trauma or disorders, to name only a few, need to be recognized and taken care of to ease our lives. As we go for a physical check-up once in a while, there is a need for a mental diagnostic not only for our well-being but also for the well-being of others. Indeed, as we are tremendously impacted by our environment, bringing awareness on taking care of our Mental Health should become a routine. As an example that needs to be trivialized is the power of sharing stories. Not only does sharing bring the concept into light but it also gives the opportunity to create a great amount of awareness, respect and understanding between us.
Mental health concerns you
The perception most people have of this notion is related to psychiatric hospitals and “craziness”, imagining people stuck in psychiatric hospitals. But the truth is that Mental Health is on a varied and on a spectrum. Whether with stress, anxiety or depression to name the few most occuring examples; we all are concerned. Each and everyone of us, throughout the world, need to be aware of what it is. The key to understanding our well-being, relies on putting an end to the shame and judgement that is often linked to Mental Health. Prejudice is already deeply embedded in a lot of societies. In that sense, ending the stigmatization; whether by collective, individual or governmental initiatives, is necessary. Indeed, studies have shown that not only does our mental health matter but it can also affect our physical health. So it is key to redefine the concept and look at mental health from a new, positive and life changing perspective.
But there is a universal component in this notion. Mental health is an international concept. Even though every individual on the surface of the earth is concerned, not all of us have the opportunity to grasp the concept. Unfortunately, the accessibility of mental health facilities is variable from one region of the world to another. And in these conditions people who need it the most are sometimes the most deprived from it. We can easily think of war regions or places where natural disasters have occurred. In those instances, the amount of stress, tension and pressure can hardly be understood. Those places, situations and cases are not more or less important than others. The idea is that having access to mental health facilities and resources can be game changing. Game changing simply because having access to mental health resources should not be a privilege but a basic human right.
Public Policy, Mental Health and Childhood
Another aspect that needs to be explained is the relationship between childhood and Mental Health. This relationship is extremely important. The importance of Mental Health caring from an early age is one of the most important notions to bring awareness to. Not only does our childhood experiences shape our identity, but they also have a huge effect on our overall mental state. The habits, routines and behaviors that we learn from others (mainly from our caregivers/parents/family) or that we adopt, are often maintained in our adulthood. In other words, preventing, recognizing potential disorders and creating healthy habits are a lot easier from a young age. With this in mind, it is necessary for governments to create public policies related to Mental Health. Gaining in familiarity with the notion of Mental Health from the very first day of school could be one option, creating classes and hours of initiation to basic Mental Health concepts could be another. Those options become necessary when we comprehend that Mental Health awareness could not only save this generation but also generations to come.
Finally, in this current situation, the Coronavirus has undoubtedly had a severe impact on a lot of individual’s well-being. The multiple lockdowns, the wear of masks and social distancing are definitely influencing the world we live in. But more than that, Mental Health needs to be taken seriously on an everyday basis. Putting Mental Health at the forefront on a global scale seems to be more than necessary. It is the duty of actors in global affairs, communities, the civil society and individuals like you and I to put an emphasis on Mental Health, destigmatize it and make it a serious priority.