“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”
– Fred Rogers
As someone who has struggled with mental health instability in the past, I have experienced, first-hand, how limiting and oppressive the culture of silence that surrounds mental health discourse is. In a time such as 2020 – in the face of a global pandemic – this culture of silence proves more dangerous than ever.
This year’s World Mental Health Day comes at a time where our world has changed considerably and perhaps irrevocably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. People from all walks of life have had their lives suddenly changed; thousands have lost their loved ones, thousands, still, have lost their means of livelihood and even more still are feeling the economic effects of a world in crisis.
As expected, this global state of emergency has resulted in a peak in mental health crises around the world as well. More and more people have come under increased stress causing them to experience several mental health disorders, ranging from mild to severe depression and anxiety disorders in the most general cases. However, even as the need for mental and psychosocial support skyrockets across the world, several communities, especially those most hardly hit by the pandemic, still do not have access to mental health care.
The theme for the World Mental Health Day 2020 as proposed by the World Federation for Mental Health is “Mental health for all,” which emphasizes the need for mental health advocacy, sensitization and care to make its way to all communities. For this to happen though, we first need to normalize regular and honest discourse about mental health. We must create safe spaces, in our communities and within ourselves, for the people that we love and care about to be honest about the challenges they face. Opening up about the issues that plague us is often the first step to healing and, in a world so torn apart by loss, healing has never been more important.
It is also important that we actively seek out mental health care initiatives in our communities and where they do not exist, create platforms that ensure that a positive discourse about mental health is started and sustained. Healthier communities are happier communities and happier communities make for a better world, overall.