Taking a “mental health day” was once a lighthearted way to describe taking some time for yourself. World Mental Health Day, however, observed on October 10, is no joke. For nearly 30 years, the effort has done much to shine a light on why mental and physical health are inextricably linked and living a good life requires proper attention to both.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Health Organization:
- About 450 million people live with mental disorders that are among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
- 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental disorder at some stage of their lives.
- Every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide, a total of 800,000 people per year -- which surpasses the number of deaths from war and homicide combined. Such tragedies have long-lasting and devastating effects on the people left behind.
This year COVID-19 and its economic fallout have strained mental health even more, causing an increase in anxiety, fear, isolation, uncertainty, and emotional distress. The good news is that along with greater awareness and decreased stigmatization of mental illness, the availability of psychosocial support and mental health care is on the rise.
For example, every day, thousands of people across North America turn to 211 for information and support—whether financial, domestic, health or disaster-related. 211 is a free, confidential referral and information helpline and website supported by United Way that connects people of all ages to the essential health and human services they need, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This summer, United Way of Central Maryland and licensed volunteer mental health providers from the Pro Bono Counseling Project helped create a new “mental health WARMLine,” to help Maryland residents who are experiencing mental health impacts related to COVID-19.
Students, parents, and school personnel need special support as they navigate the unchartered territory of COVID-19. Mental Health America’s Back to School Toolkit is bound to help someone you know who’s dealing with in-school or distance learning.
Older people have experienced greater stress, loneliness, and anxiety as they isolate from family and friends during the pandemic. United Way in your community likely offers a myriad of ways to volunteer to support seniors, from note-writing campaigns to online and phone support to meal delivery. Seniors’ caregivers also need our support. AARP offers a wealth of resources for caregivers, including this tool to better understand what caregivers are going through.
However you choose to spend your (World) Mental Health Day, make time to share these resources and make a difference.