World Mental Health Day, celebrated every year on 10 October, is aimed at raising awareness and spreading education about mental health issues across the globe.
Mental health has come to focus in pandemic times like never before as people of all age groups and occupations bear the brunt of the 'new normal'.
Health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions have been particularly affected.
"In recent years, there has been increasing acknowledgement of the important role mental health plays in achieving global development goals, as illustrated by the inclusion of mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals," according to World Health Organization (WHO).
People with mental health conditions are at higher risk of dying prematurely.
Depression one of commonest mental health illness is one of the leading causes of disability while suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-old, as per WHO.
"Majority of the people living with mental health problems in the low-and middle-income countries do not get adequate treatment. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has increased our challenges multifold which need to be addressed on a priority," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director WHO South-East Asia Region.
History and Significance of World Mental Health Day
World Mental Health Day was first observed on 10 October, 1992 as an annual activity of World Federation for Mental Health.
The day initially did not have a specific theme and its aim was to promote 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 preparations for World Mental Health Day are made for months beforehand and in some countries the program stretches over several days, or a week, or even in some cases the whole month.
Theme for this year's World Mental Health Day
The theme of this year's World Mental Health Day is 'Mental health in an unequal world'.
While the pandemic has affected everyone, people with long term health conditions, or facing discrimination or parenting on their own are struggling the most and need more support.
"Along with treatment gap, we must address workplace stress, help adolescents in schools as also caregivers and families of people living with mental health issues. We need to proactively address stigma and discrimination associated with mental ill health that creates barrier to access care and treatment," the Regional Director said.
World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity to talk about mental health in general, how to break the stigma around it, and the importance of speaking out when struggling with a mental health issue.