World Mental Health Day is upon us again, dedicated to raising awareness of mental health’s challenges, triumphs, and nuances. Countless articles, social media posts, and campaigns each year champion the cause. But as we mark another year and another World Mental Health Day, one can’t help but wonder:
Are we genuinely paying attention?
Back in May, the UK observed Mental Health Awareness Week. Yet, does having two significant days in a year translate to twice the impact? Or are these awareness days just a ceremonial nod to an issue that demands sustained attention and action?
Delivering mental health first aid courses both online and in person, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of education and awareness. Signposting individuals to professional help or teaching them to initiate conversations about mental health can make a difference. However, the reality is a mixed bag. While there are organisations genuinely committed to the cause, many others seem content with mere lip service.
From my experience, organisations that actively pursue mental health initiatives often have champions within their ranks — individuals with lived experiences or a personal connection to the cause. Yet, the overarching narrative I frequently encounter is familiar: “We don’t have the budget” or “We don’t have the time.” It’s disheartening to see such a crucial issue brushed aside.
Our government, too, sends mixed signals. While there’s been a notable increase in the suicide prevention fund — a move that promises to provide vital support to thousands in need — there’s a troubling inertia elsewhere. The First-Aid (Mental Health) Bill’s stalling is a glaring example. Scheduled for its next stage on 24th November 2023, it’s now uncertain when, or even if, it will be taken up. What message does this convey about the government’s commitment to mental health?
Awareness days, while crucial, cannot be the total of our efforts. They should be launchpads for year-round initiatives, policy changes, and sustained conversations. Otherwise, we risk them becoming echo chambers where only the already converted listen.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is more than just another course – it’s an urgent call to action for everyone, from business leaders to grassroots community members. Imagine if, in every room you entered, there was at least one individual equipped with the knowledge and skills to support a person undergoing a mental health crisis. The ripple effect of such preparedness would be monumental.
When you undertake MHFA training, you’re not just learning – you’re committing to being that beacon of support in someone’s moment of need. This is our collective responsibility. For organisations, embedding MHFA into regular training schedules demonstrates a proactive approach to mental health, a commitment that extends beyond tokenistic gestures.
So, here’s a call to arms: let’s prioritise MHFA training. Make it as commonplace as first aid for physical injuries. Equip yourself and your teams with the tools to understand, empathise, and assist. Our society’s mental wellbeing is a collective responsibility, and this is a vital step in safeguarding it.
The Path Forward
Awareness is the first step, but action must follow. Here’s what we can do:
Year-Round Initiatives: Organisations should integrate mental health initiatives into their annual plans, not just align with global awareness days.
Government Action: The government must prioritise mental health in tangible ways, including passing relevant bills and allocating adequate funds.
Education and Training: More professionals should be trained in mental health first aid, ensuring that help is available and accessible when needed.
Community Engagement: Grassroots movements, community conversations, and local support groups can help sustain the momentum and make mental health a part of the public discourse.
In conclusion, as we commemorate World Mental Health Day, let it be a reminder that our commitment should extend beyond the confines of a single day. Our minds, our rights. Let’s put our minds to the task and focus on raising awareness and driving tangible change for better mental health for all.