The World Health Organization estimates that around one in four of us will be affected by a mental health disorder at some stage of our lives, while the World Economic Forum has noted that mental health disorders are on the rise in every country in the world. Worryingly, both of these observations were made before the current worldwide pandemic arose, which can only have exacerbated things. According to a survey by mental health charity Mind, more than half of adults and over two-thirds of young people said their mental health has become worse during periods of lockdown restrictions.
I am regularly reading that emotional distress is widespread as people grapple with diverse experiences such as anxiety, fear, and isolation brought about by the social dislocation with which we are all living.
So as we look at recognizing the issue this Saturday, on the 28th World Mental Health Day, we should realize that this is not a tick-the-box acknowledgment. It can be difficult to know what to do if you are worried about someone, but we can do many things for our families, friends and colleagues. And perhaps the easiest is one I can speak about from experience - I have seen first-hand the importance of not waiting and simply hoping that someone will reach out. Talking is often a good first step to take when you suspect someone is going through a hard time. And even if they are not, why not reach out to people and ask how they are and see if there is anything you can do to help. We may not be in a position to give advice, but aphorisms such as “a problem shared is a problem halved,” are based on success and handed down through the years – because they contain truth. Mental health is not a stigma – it is a reality of today’s world. So rather than make this a once a year initiative, keep your eyes and ears open, and gently reach out?