World Mental Health Month

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October is World Mental Health Month and October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Established in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), this day, along with the rest of the month’s activities, are designed to provide education and advocacy to combat the social stigma surrounding mental illnesses and raise awareness of mental health issues worldwide.

World Mental Health Day, of course, has its own Twitter feed (@WMHDay) and hashtag (#WorldMentalHealthDay). This year’s theme is Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World. The event coincides with WFMH’s rebranding and new visual identify - a green ribbon with rays of the sun projecting outward, getting stronger and brighter, representing the progress the movement has made toward raising awareness and signifying an individual’s path towards recovery. 

The campaign focuses on prevention and early intervention measures that put young people on a path toward positive mental health and wellbeing.

The best path to lifelong wellness is one that starts with good mental health. Young people that grow up with additional stressors due to the effects of trauma, transgender discrimination, major mental illness, bullying and suicide are far more likely to have mental health issues throughout the rest of their lives. World Mental Health Day 2018 will show the importance of creating more services and better care for our young people, and the issues they are experiencing the most these days. The acts of prevention, early interventions, resilience, available information and services are the key factors in creating a healthy future for our young people.

World Federation for Mental Health

2018 WMHDAY Campaign Document

This theme was undoubtedly chosen to highlight the particular stressors our youth face today which are unlike anything we’ve seen before. Between social media, bullying, school shootings, suicide, substance abuse and a myriad of other types of trauma, our youth experience significant pressures that uniquely and significantly impact their mental health and wellbeing. 

Consider the statistics:

1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental health condition, yet only 4% of the total health care budget is spent on mental health care. ~ TeenMentalHealth.org

Suicide is second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds. ~ World Health Organization

Eighty-three percent of young people say bullying has a negative impact on their self-esteem ~ DitchTheLabel.org

So focusing this year’s World Mental Health Day on our youth seems like a very wise idea.  How can you help? There’s plenty to be done:

1. Share the National Suicide Lifeline’s 24 hour phone number with loved ones. Encourage young people to save the number in their cellphone so it’s always at their fingertips, if not for themselves, then for times when they are worried about someone else. 1-800-273-TALK/8255.

2. If you are concerned about a young person, talk openly with them about what you are observing and why you are worried about them. Be supportive and non-judgmental.  Validate their fears, worries or concerns and make sure they know they are not alone in what they are experiencing.  Most importantly, make sure they know there is help available to them.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask the question – “Are you thinking of hurting yourself?” Parents and caregivers often fear asking this question. They fear it will plant an idea that wasn’t there before. This is probably one of the biggest myths surrounding suicide and suicide intervention. Talking about suicide will not plant the idea. Instead, it opens up lines of communication and an avenue to provide intervention. Don’t be afraid to ask the question – it may mean the difference between getting someone the help that they need and confronting a tragedy.

4. Talk openly about mental health in general. The more we discuss mental health as a culture, the less stigmatizing it will be and the more likely young people will ask for help when they need it. Ensure they know they can turn to you as a trusted adult if and when they are experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health condition. Studies show that young people with at least one trusted adult in their life fare better and will seek intervention sooner when they experience signs and symptoms of a mental health condition.

5. Know your community’s resources. Be aware of what’s available through a young person’s school, health care providers and within the community. 

Mental health conditions are treatable. Recovery from mental health conditions is possible. We tend to fail our youth when we minimize the stressors they face, sweep their concerns under the rug, ignore warning signs and avoid the difficult conversations. 

Be on the lookout during the month of October and particularly on October 10th for ways in which you can make a difference in the life of a young person.