Last reviewed 6 October 2023
Life is arguably nearly always stressful to some degree… but present times are far from normal. The difficulties in coping with the global tensions, frustrations and threats currently being experienced by millions of people was reflected in the theme of World Mental Health Day 2023, which took place on Tuesday 10 October — “Mental health is a universal human right”. Jon Herbert reports.
This year’s core message will be promoted and supported by local, regional, national, and international organisations — including many leading UK charities and expert bodies — all concerned that too many people at risk are not receiving the help that is their due.
WFMH Global Campaign 2023
World Mental Health Day 2023 was organised by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) as part of its WFMH Global Campaign 2023 — the 75th since the federation’s formation in 1948.
This year, WFMH’s special awareness day appeal was for groups of people around the world to come together to discuss and share their mental health fears, plus how to access the personal and professional support that should be their right, and that of colleagues, friends and family members too.
Additional information sources from leading UK mental health organisations are shown below — with specific summary advice on how to listen carefully when others are talking and ask appropriate questions.
This year, the world community could potentially face its worst combination of mental health threats since the WFMH’s post-World War II mid-twentieth century formation.
In the last three years, anxieties about global warming and climate change have intensified, creating trauma across many countries — especially in the summer of 2023 — and an increasing number of vulnerable displaced refuges that often face perilous journeys.
Military conflict in Europe now involves many populations and nations. Energy shortages, rising living costs, inflation, and widespread political uncertainty, are all having combined daily health impacts on millions.
New factors, such as the potential effects on employment, stable traditional jobs and career paths of AI (artificial intelligence), pioneering technologies, and the digital revolution, are of particular concern to young people.
But many people are working on the positive side too.
World Health Organization (WHO) — “Our minds, our rights”
WHO is supporting WFMH with the call-to-arms of the Join the World Mental Health Day 2023 campaign to learn more about your basic right to mental health as well as how to protect the rights of others.
The UN body wants people and communities to: “ improve knowledge, raise awareness and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right”.
It continues: “Everyone, whoever and wherever they are, has a right to the highest attainable standard of mental health. This includes the right to be protected from mental health risks, the right to available, accessible, acceptable, and good quality care, and the right to liberty, independence and inclusion in the community.
“One-in-eight people globally are living with mental health conditions, which can impact their physical health, their well-being, how they connect with others, and their livelihoods. Mental health conditions are also affecting an increasing number of adolescents and young people”.
Other organisations that actively supported the awareness day include:
MIND is organising a petition calling on the Government to publish the Mental Health Act. It states that : “ Mental health hospitals are broken. Buildings are crumbling. Wards are often bare, cold and rundown. And people’s voices are being ignored.
“On top of this, we’re still waiting for the UK government to reform the 40 year old Mental Health Act to give people more say in their treatment and strengthen their rights while in hospital.
Rethink notes that: “ the mental health conversation can be a lonely place for those of us living with mental illness”, and adds that “People living with a mental illness have a shorter life expectancy; LGBT+ people are at more risk of suicidal behaviour and self-harm; and black people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act.
“In 2023, 500,000 of us in England live with severe mental illness. It’s time we had a society that truly understands and actively cares for us. Living with a mental illness should not be a barrier to a good quality of life.”
As a leading UK charity since 1949, the Mental Health Foundation also actively support World Mental Health Day.
The foundation’s vision is of a world with good mental health for all based on prevention. This concept is central to what it does, and how it identifies and addresses sources of mental health problems “so that people and communities can thrive”. Its focus is on those at greatest risk.
To support group discussions, it provides the abbreviated advice paraphrased below which can be seen in full at Tips for Talking About Mental Health.
Talking about your mental health
“Talking is good for your mental health. But starting conversations isn’t always easy. Whether talking about how you feel, or checking-in with someone you care about, these tips can help.”
Choose someone you trust to talk to: “This might be a friend, family member, a colleague, or someone you don’t know, such as a support helpline. It can help write a pros and cons list about talking to someone.”
Think about the best place to talk: “Choose a place where you feel comfortable to open-up. It might somewhere private where you’re less likely to be disturbed. Or you may want to talk while you do an activity, like walking together.”
Prepare yourself for their reaction: “Hopefully, you will have a good experience. But people may not react in the way you hope for different reasons, like being worried or not fully understanding you. Try to give them time to process what you’ve said, perhaps giving them information to read. But be kind to yourself and practise self-care.”
Talking to someone else about their mental health
1. Find a good space to talk without distractions
“If you’re worried about someone, find a place to have a conversation without being distracted. Make sure to give them your full attention. It might help to switch off your phone.”
2. Listen and ask questions
“Listening is one of the most valuable ways ‘to be there’ for someone. Show you’re actively listening by facing them, making eye contact, and not interrupting. Ask questions to clarify what they mean and show that you’re actively listening. Make sure questions are relevant; don’t change the subject.”
3. Ask how you can help
“Ask how you can help or make suggestions, rather than telling them what to do next. They might want support from a GP appointment, help around the house, or just for you to keep things normal and chat about what’s going on in your life.”
Long-term physical conditions and mental health
“Physical and mental health are closely linked. Mental ill-health is not inevitable. Support is available, and there are things you can do to help yourself.”
Long-term physical conditions can’t currently be cured, “but can be managed with medication or other treatment. They are also known as chronic conditions. Examples include diabetes, asthma, arthritis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue, and high blood pressure.”
More than 15 million people in England, “have one or more long-term physical conditions. They are more common in older people and more deprived groups. But anyone can be affected.”
Long-term physical conditions can affects many areas of life: “including relationships, the ability to work, finances, and mental health.”
This can lead to social isolation, low self-esteem, stigma and discrimination “and make you feel tired, frustrated, worried, or stressed, especially when dealing with pain, tests, treatments or flare-ups.”
All these can increase the likelihood of developing mental health problems, “like depression or anxiety. Research shows that people with long-term physical conditions are more than twice as likely to develop mental ill-health — which in turn can make it harder to cope with physical ill-health.”
You don’t have to accept mental health problems, “as part of having a long-term condition. Speak to your GP about how you’re feeling and ask about different treatments to find one that’s right for you.”
Talk to friends and family — “talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling and what support you need.”
Talk to your GP — See here.
Contact an organisation that supports people with your health condition — including: (Asthma + Lung UK); British Heart Foundation; Diabetes UK; Epilepsy Action; Macmillan Cancer Support; The ME Association; and Versus Arthritis.
The Foundation has programmes for refugees and asylum seekers which it says face unique mental health challenges, and are often at greater risk of developing mental health problems.
“Mental health is a universal human right” — this was the theme of World Mental Health Day 2023 on Tuesday 10 October.
The day’s aim is to focus on concerns that millions of people facing global environmental, energy, cost of living, and personal traumatic emotional crises are not receiving the help to which they are entitled as world citizens.
Led by mental health organisations and charities, and backed by the UN’s World Health Organizations (WHO), the day’s organiser — the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) — wanted people to discuss in groups their fears, plus the support they and their colleagues, friends and family members should have as an unrestricted right.