World Mental Health Day 2022: Significance, history, theme, tips

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It’s not only people with advanced illnesses who benefit from mental health intervention, but also those coping with the unseen advancements of stress, burn out, anxiety and various forms of abuse or trauma. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

It’s not only people with advanced illnesses who benefit from mental health intervention, but also those coping with the unseen advancements of stress, burn out, anxiety and various forms of abuse or trauma. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

World Health Organization (WHO) data show that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a 25 percent increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. An estimated 12 billion working days are lost each year to depression and anxiety, which the WHO estimates costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion.

The WHO says growing social and economic inequalities, and protracted conflicts, violence and public health emergencies affecting whole populations are further threatening progress towards improved wellbeing.

Even where help is available, stigma and discrimination prevent many people from getting the care they need. World Mental Health Day represents a global commitment to raise awareness around mental health issues and to mobilize support.

“A day dedicated to mental health renews the focus on the subject. The large number of activities, events and talks conducted on this day provide a boost to mental health awareness,” says Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty.

World mental health day: History

World Mental Health Day was first observed on October 10, 1992, as an annual activity of World Federation for Mental Health. The day initially did not have a specific theme and its aim was mental health advocacy and educating the public on relevant issues. Seeing the popularity of the campaign, in 1994 for the first time a theme for the day was used which was “Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World.”

With each passing year, the day’s popularity continued to grow. Some of its early themes were Women and Mental Health (1996), Children and Mental Health (1997), Mental Health and Human Rights (1998) and Mental Health and Ageing (1999). The theme for World Mental Health Day 2022 is “Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority”.

The preparations for World Mental Health Day are made months in advance and in some countries the programme stretches over several days, or weeks.

Mental Health in India

According to a WHO report, between 1990 and 2017, one in seven people from India have suffered mental illness such as depression, anxiety and other severe conditions.

“There has been a spurt in mental illness in the country post-pandemic,” says Dr Shetty. “The number of people dying of heart attacks in 2021 has increased six times of the previous years in the first six months. This is believed to be a result of intense emotional stress during Covid. There is a visible increase in the number of people expressing self-harm thoughts. Diabetes and heart issues are associated with mental illness. There is an increase in psychological issues in kids too,” Dr Shetty says. With events, screenings, activities, and more, World Mental Health Day is a catalyst for people to learn more, seek help, offer support, and open their hearts and minds to vulnerable conversations, he adds.


Dr Harish Shetty’s top tips on how to look after your mental health:

Connect with others: Humans are social creatures, and it’s important to have strong, healthy relationships with others. Having good social support may help protect you against the harms of stress.

Cuddle & Curl: Soft touch is very important. Cuddling for a few minutes every evening before sleep is important for good mental health.

Exercise, Meditate and Pray: Any physical exercise helps. Yoga is known to help build immunity and resilience. Follow it up with breath exercises. Mindfulness practices such as meditation and pranayama also help as they calm the brain. Praying helps too. It does not bring god on earth but it helps the mind focus and concentrate.

Take care of your diet: Food and drink affect our bodies, brains and mood – for good or bad. Include pulses, eggs, groundnuts, fruits and grams in your diet. No soft drinks as it hurts your brain and bones. Make sure your Vitamin D and B12 levels are in order.

Share feelings: This is extremely important so that you clean your mind as well as your body. Talking may also change how you see and feel about the situation in ways you find helpful.

Do nothing: Doing nothing is a beautiful exercise for those who have been doing everything throughout their lives. It is just as important as doing something. Just put your legs up and enjoy a cup of coffee. Read that book you couldn’t finish earlier, watch the sun rise and set, listen to the birds.

Know your red flags: It is natural for some to experience symptoms such as sleeplessness, severe anxiety, ideas of helplessness/ hopelessness/ worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, intolerance to loud noises, sleep disturbances and increased anger outbursts. If these symptoms persist for two or more weeks, consult a mental health professional immediately.

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