Today is World Mental Health Day, so now’s the time to pause what you’re doing and look inward. For the uninitiated, World Mental Health Day is the result of a global advocacy and awareness programme started by the World Federation for Mental Health back in 1992. As for its raison d’etre? Raising awareness around mental health and dispelling the stigma that surrounds it, with each year focusing on a specific aspect.
After all, research by WHO has revealed that some 450 million people across the globe have experienced some form of a mental health issue, and one in four individuals will develop a mental or behavioural disorder in their lifetime. This year’s theme is Mental Health in an Unequal World, rightfully highlighting that access to mental health services remains unequal – between 75% to 95% of people with mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries are unable to access mental health services at all, and access in high-income countries isn’t much better.
And then there’s the sheer volume of people struggling with challenges borne out of the ongoing pandemic. In fact, knowing how to deal with our own mental health issues whilst supporting those closest to us who may be suffering even more is a challenge in itself. With support of paramount importance in a case like this, The Gaggler tapped Aakanksha Tangri, founder of Dubai-based online mental health platform Re:Set, about the tools that can help those who are hesitant to seek help.
Realise What It Takes to Really Help
Individual communities need to take steps to build a support group for family and friends, creating a safe space that allows for the freedom to express feelings without judgement. Mental health is not binary – it’s not about being sick or healthy. There is an in-between state where the signs and symptoms of mental disorders may not be obvious. According to Ayukta Thakur, co-founder of holistic center for young adults with special needs Integreat Center, statements like “don’t give up” and “just keep fighting” can actually stunt a person’s willingness to seek advice when going through mental health struggles.
The key to succeeding in your support is to stay diligent and aware of the state of your own and others’ mental health. It’s essential to make a habit of noticing when someone close to you is not feeling great and reaching out to them by showing support and providing encouragement to seek treatment, and vice versa. As a society, we should strive to pick up our fellow human beings. Something as small as checking up on your neighbour or colleague could have a beneficial effect on someone’s mental well-being by providing a reminder that someone is always there to listen.
Our job as a community should be to encourage and embolden people to seek mental health support, normalise vulnerability, and destroy the illusion of a seemingly perfect state of mind. Loneliness has been found as a key link to severe mental health disorders. Providing people with a space to admit that they are not well – as well as open an honest dialogue about their emotional and mental state – is important in spreading acknowledgement and acceptance around mental health.
Dubai-based clinical psychologist Dr. Catherine Frogely reminds us that it’s okay to admit that you’re not okay when speaking on the significance of normalising the need to seek therapy. “Talking about your feelings sets a good example and is a helpful strategy to make people feel comfortable when speaking about their mental health.”
Be a Part of the Change
“When we are sick with the flu or a stomach bug, we go to the doctor, take medicine, or seek natural remedies – so why do we not do the same when it comes to mental health?” asks Ayukta. It is through this realisation that it is absolutely critical to eradicating the stigma attached to mental health and seeking therapy. According to statistics from WHO, the UAE is currently behind the global average in terms of the number of psychiatrists and psychiatric beds per 100,000 population.
Spreading understanding and sharing stories around what it’s like to live with mental health challenges allows for in-depth and diverse discussions around key topics such as inclusivity, parenting, gender, and education, each pivotal in changing society’s perception of mental health issues. Creating a safe space while shedding light on topics that aren’t always brought to the forefront, but are important for the masses to address, is essential. Unlike physical health, mental health is not generally discussed publicly. And that needs to change today.
We need to adopt open communication on mental health challenges and assist others before a possible crisis arises. Our purpose is to provide a voice for everyday people to share their real-life experiences and ignite discussion – be that teachers, educators, counsellors, parents, students, children, people of determination, or family members. “It comes back to building awareness and education about the significance of mental health support. Also making the whole community open to talking about seeking therapy,” says Dr. Frogley. It is with this in mind that our mission is to start conversations and propose solutions, as well as guide and encourage education around tough topics to provide in-depth understanding, support, and resources for those in need.