The World Federation for Mental Health has announced the theme for World Mental Health Day 2021: Mental Health in an Unequal World.

The theme holds great significance in highlighting the large disparity between the availability of mental healthcare facilities. Unequal access surges between 75% to 95% of people with mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries who are unable to access mental health services at all, and access in high-income countries is not satisfactory.

2020 and the pandemic has (re)surfaced inequality in multiple areas of life, varying from gender identity to sexual orientation to economical. These socio-economic factors affect mental health and also accessibility to mental health services.

Because of the shame and stigma attached, it is difficult for people to receive the treatment they are entitled to; the gap between haves and have-nots has grown more than ever. There is a growing (unmet) demand for professional help for people who are suffering from mental health problems.

Studies across the world show that quality mental health services are not readily available, accessible and/or affordable to people in different parts of the world, and the situation is terrifying in underdeveloped and developing countries. They are still significantly affected by stigma, discrimination and taboos, which prevent people from talking about such issues, let alone seek professional help.

“It can take up to 15 years before medical, social and psychological treatments for mental illness that have been shown to work in good quality research studies are delivered to the patients that need them in everyday practice” (WFMH).

One cannot afford to ignore mental health problems because it does not stop there- in the head; it affects every aspect of our lives, from our career prospects to our personal lives and also affects their relationships with families, friends and loved ones.

We need to take massive efforts to address the persistent inequality and make sure that people who are living with mental health problems are met with care and support to sail through.

The pandemic has highlighted the sad reality of health infrastructure, and no nation, no matter how rich, has been well equipped to handle this catastrophe. According to the World Health Organisation, median government mental health expenditure is less than 2.0% of total government health expenditure globally. Last year, in 2020, World Federation for Mental Health had called out for increased investments in mental healthcare services (PAHO, WHO).

The pandemic has and will continue to significantly affect people and cause loss, grief, financial crisis, furlough, job insecurity, loss of social stamina and social anxiety and many other things which necessitates a fast-track approach in bridging the gap of supply and demand in mental healthcare services.

The 2021 World Mental Health Day campaign ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’ will allow us to shift our focus on the issues that continue to affect mental healthcare distribution locally and globally.

An update for mental healthcare users– you are already contributing to making mental health a priority, but you can do more by creating a domino effect and setting examples for others to follow in your footsteps. Here’s how you can contribute and make a difference on an individual level:

#1. Be There

Giving your time and energy to others can be just as nourishing to your soul as taking care of yourself. Letting your loved ones know that you are there for them in times of need is enough for someone to feel supported and safe.

#2. Educate and Spread Awareness

There’s no escaping the fact that mental health has been misunderstood for ages. You can ask wellness-oriented places like your local gym, yoga studio, or health food store or your school and universities to share resources that are verified. You can also collaborate with community wellbeing experts and wellbeing advocates to run a campaign to educate people about mental health.

#3. Start a Conversation

Starting a conversation around mental health can be daunting, and it is okay for a person to feel overwhelmed. What matters is that you are ready to talk and carry a conversation with patience and help someone untangle their problems, and in the process, you can learn a thing or two yourself!

Just remember, the fact that you have tried to talk to them may make it easier for them to open up another time, and that’s enough.  

#4. Mobilise community assets

To make a real difference and support people who are suffering from mental health problems, we need to build strong, resilient, sustainable communities. In a nutshell, we need to empower people to use their strengths and resources to build thriving communities where people look after each other.

#5. Be Vocal

Mental health awareness starts with you. Be vocal because you are not alone, and everyone deserves to be heard. Speak up against any kind of stigma, discrimination and bias; try to be more empathetic and practise kindness while doing so.

Mental health affects each and every one of us. We want to share the load and tackle inequality locally and abroad by making mental healthcare accessible and affordable for all. It’s why we created Plumm.