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World Mental Health Day 2020 on 10 October: Move for mental health - Let’s invest!

18:52 08/10/2020
Community Help Service (CHS) Brussels calls for action

One in four people worldwide, and one in six in the European Union, will experience a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Despite this, mental health services are the most underfunded aspect of public health across low- and high-income countries alike. Grave neglect for these services has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic in which the need and demand for access has significantly increased. That is why this World Mental Health Day, on 10 October, is dedicated to the global scale-up of critical mental health services.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with United for Global Mental Health and the World Federation for Mental Health, urges everyone to take action to raise awareness about mental health, reduce the stigma that still frequently disrupts help seeking behaviour and specifically, provide public support for large-scale investments in mental health infrastructure.

The case for investment

For the many of us who have or are currently experiencing mental illness, little justification needs to be made for public investment in mental health. Yet, the impacts of mental illness can be substantial both emotionally and economically, and reach far beyond the individual level.

According to the WHO, mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide and a significant contributor to other common diseases. As a result, mental illness is responsible for decreased productivity, lower levels of employment, increased early mortality and increased spending on health and social security programs. In Europe alone, these costs amount to over €600 billion, or about 4% of the total GDP of the EU. Conversely, proactive planning and investment has been shown to yield fivefold returns for society, generating about €5 in economic gain for every €1 invested in the treatment of common mental illnesses.

Beyond the economic impact, direct investment in mental health infrastructure can help bolster the legal framework of empowerment set forth by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Increased investments in outpatient clinics and assisted decision-making helps protect people living with psychosocial disabilities from discrimination and abuse.

Get involved!

First and foremost, take care of your own mental health and do not hesitate to reach out for help. Coronavirus has presented a devastating set of challenges, especially for those of us who were already experiencing mental distress. There is no shame in reaching out for assistance of any kind.

Although Belgium does not fund English-speaking services, the Community Help Service has a Mental Health Services Centre in Brussels and offers a free 24-hour confidential and anonymous crisis helpline. If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, give us a call at 02 648 40 14.

Next, register with United for Global Mental Health to join the 24-hour virtual march on 9 October. Receive social media filters that are activated by movement and use the official hashtag to show the world how you #moveformentalhealth.

Finally, join the WHO on 10 October for the main advocacy event featuring livestreams from world leaders, mental health experts and those with a lived experience of mental illness. Tune in for inspiration, comradery and to learn about new investments in the field of mental health. 

In collaboration with the Community Help Service

Photo: iStock/Getty Images Plus