The harsh reality
The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) President Dr Ingrid Daniels has announced the theme for World Mental Health Day 2021 which is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.
This theme was chosen by a global vote because the world is increasingly polarized, with the very wealthy becoming wealthier, and the number of people living in poverty still far too high.
2020 highlighted inequalities due to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the lack of respect for human rights in many countries, including for people living with mental health conditions. Such inequalities have an impact on people’s mental health.
It is an uncomfortable truth that the access to mental health services remains unequal, with 75% to 95% of people with mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries unable to access mental health services at all, and access in high income countries is not much better. Lack of investment in mental health disproportionate to the overall health budget contributes to the mental health treatment gap.
Well-being does not come from our circumstances alone
This is clearly a complex problem with no quick fix solution. Research from the field of well-being unequivocally shows that living in poverty has a negative impact on well-being. However research in the same field also indicates that a large percentage of our happiness is derived from the attitudes we adopt, what we choose to focus on and the habits we develop in our daily lives.
The issue of personal control
There will always be factors that we can’t control in our lives. Equally there are factors over which we do have a degree of personal control. We may not be able to alter our circumstances but we can practice altering the focus of our attention and developing routines and activities that support positive mental health.
Whilst individuals with mental health disorders clearly require additional professional support there might still be activities and habits that they can engage in that may provide them with a degree of relief and coping strategies until that support is available.
Things that might help
Reaching out and connecting to friends and/or family and skills such as meditation, progressive muscular relaxation and specific breathing exercises are just some of the examples of activities that can help.
For those individuals that don’t have a mental health disorder but have found themselves struggling to cope on occasion, such activities are likely to be even more beneficial as a protective measure to prevent a further deterioration in mental health.
What the expert has to say…
Khody Damestani, cofounder of mental fitness company, MyMindPal, has this to say on the subject.
“The inequality in mental health provision has really been highlighted over the past year. Whilst this is unfair and needs to be addressed at a global level it is simply outside of the control of the individual who finds themselves in these unfavourable circumstances to make a rapid change to his or her situation.
We all do however have the control to choose what we focus on in our lives, and the skills and activities that we develop and engage in to work on our mental fitness”.