The Importance of World Mental Health Day

Observed every October 10th, World Mental Health Day’s overall objective is to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. Founded in 1992, this year marks the event’s 25th anniversary. Each year has had a different theme, and 2017’s theme is Mental Health in the Work Place. Considering that 300 million people suffer from depression globally, and 260 million others live with anxiety disorders, promoting good mental health in people’s professional lives as well as their personal ones is an important goal. Not only from an interpersonal perspective, but also from a monetary one: a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that such disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity every year.

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Domestically in the US, the numbers break down like this:

  • 1 in 5 (or 43.8 million) adults experience mental illness in a given year
  • 1 in 25 (or 10 million) adults experience a serious mental illness
  • 1 in 100 (or 2.4 million) live with schizophrenia
  • 6% (or 6.1 million) of Americans have bipolar disorder
  • 9% (or 16 million) suffer from severe depression
  • 1% (or 42 million) live with an anxiety disorder
  • 90% of those who commit suicide have an underlying mental illness

However, despite the sheer number of people who deal with mental illnesses, treatment and awareness numbers remain shockingly low.

  • Only 41% of adults with a mental health condition received help, and less than 50% of children 8-15 received mental health services
  • Only 9% of those suffering from anxiety receive treatment
  • Less than 20% of Americans with moderate depressive symptoms sought help from a medical professional
  • 4% of young adults with self-reported mental health needs forgo healthcare entirely

mental health day.pngWith these stats in mind, it can come as no surprise that World Mental Health Day exists, and still strives to grow the conversation concerning mental health, both within the United States and around the world. Celebrities, politicians, and other public figures joined the discussion via various social media platforms, but none so prevalently as Twitter. #WorldMentalHealthDay trended all day, with personal anecdotes, encouraging quotes, and others citing mental health stats to get the ball rolling. Notable examples include:

  • Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, who gave a speech on the importance of mental health
  • Lady Gaga, who has been vocal about her own struggle with mental illness, offered a live meditation session to followers
  • Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, promoted ending the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, encouraging honest, open conversations about mental health

Though the official World Mental Health Day ended yesterday, promoting good mental health is not a goal that can truly be limited to just one day. In order for individuals suffering from mental health issues to truly receive the support they need, this level of awareness needs to continue throughout the year. But it is days like this that make the issue more visible, shining a light on just how many people in our lives—figures we look up to, people in our offices, friends from childhood, family members near and far—who may also be dealing with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.

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