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World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of better mental health. The day is celebrated at the initiative of the World Federation of Mental Health and is supported by World Health Organisation and its partner institutions through raising awareness on mental health issues. World Mental Health Day was observed for the first time on 10 October 1992.

World Mental Health Day 2020

The theme for World Mental Health Day 2020 is "Move for mental health: let’s invest".

The World Mental Health Day 2020, comes at a time when our daily lives have changed considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past months have brought many challenges: for health-care workers, providing care in difficult circumstances, going to work fearful of bringing COVID-19 home with them; for students, adapting to taking classes from home, with little contact with teachers and friends, and anxious about their futures; for workers whose livelihoods are threatened; for the vast number of people caught in poverty or in fragile humanitarian settings with extremely limited protection from COVID-19; and for people with mental health conditions, many experiencing even greater social isolation than before. And this is to say nothing of managing the grief of losing a loved one, sometimes without being able to say goodbye.

The economic consequences of the pandemic are already being felt, as companies let staff go in an effort to save their businesses, or indeed shut down completely.

Given past experience of emergencies, it is expected that the need for mental health and psychosocial support will substantially increase in the coming months and years. Investment in mental health programmes at the national and international levels, which have already suffered from years of chronic underfunding, is now more important than it has ever been.

This is why the goal of this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign is increased investment in mental health. 

Key facts

The health argument

  • Close to one billion people have a mental disorder and anyone, anywhere, can be affected.
  • Depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents and adults.  
  • 1 in 5 children and adolescents has a mental disorder.
  • People with severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia tend to die 10-20 years earlier than the general population.  
  • Suicide is claiming the lives of close to 800 000 people every year  ̶  1 person every 40 seconds  ̶- and is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 years.

The care gap

  • Despite the universal nature and the magnitude of mental ill health, the gap between demand for mental health services and supply remains substantial.
  • Relatively few people around the world have access to quality mental health services.
  • In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental health conditions receive no treatment for their condition at all.
  • The serious gaps that still exist in mental health care are a result of chronic under-investment over many decades in mental health promotion, prevention and care.
  • Stigma, discrimination and human rights abuses of people with mental health conditions remain widespread.  

The economic cost

  • The lost productivity resulting from depression and anxiety, two of the most common mental disorders, costs the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year.

The investment deficit

  • On average, countries spend less than 2% of their national health budgets on mental health.
  • Despite an increase of development assistance for mental health in recent years, it has never exceeded 1% of development assistance for health.

The good news

  • Some of the most common mental health conditions, depression and anxiety, can be treated with talking therapies, medication, or a combination of these.
  • For every US$ 1 invested in scaled-up treatment for depression and anxiety, there is a return of US$ 5.
  • For every US$ 1 invested in evidence-based treatment for drug dependence, there is a return of up to US$ 7 in reduced crime and criminal justice costs.
  • Generalist health workers can be trained to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.
  • Regular health checks of people with severe mental disorders can prevent premature death.
  • The quality of life of people living with conditions such as autism and dementia can be greatly improved when their caregivers receive appropriate training.
  • The rights of people living with mental health conditions can be protected and promoted through mental health legislation, policy, development of affordable, quality community-based mental health services and the involvement of people with lived experience.

Source : WHO

Related resources

  1. Mental health & COVID-19
  2. Basic Psychosocial Skills: A Guide for COVID-19 Responders


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