This year’s World Mental Health Day reminds us of the inequity in access to mental health services and why we need to break the stigma surrounding mental health once and for all.

 

World Mental Health Day is observed internationally on 10 October every year to promote awareness and advocacy of mental health. The day was originated by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) which has chosen a timely theme for this year’s event: Mental Health in an Unequal World

In announcing the theme, WFMH shared that between 75% to 95% of people with mental health disorders in low- and middle-income countries are unable to access mental health services. Access in some high-income countries is not much better with investment in mental health services disproportionate to overall spending on healthcare. 

Awareness is key to driving better outcomes which is why I wanted to mark World Mental Health Day by bringing focus to some of the issues impacting those living with mental health disorders.

Lack of investment delays and limits availability to treatment

According to the WFMH, it can take up to 15 years before medical, social, and psychological treatments for mental illness that have been shown to work in research studies are delivered to the people that need them in everyday practice. This could mean 15 years of excess hardship for those living with mental health disorders—and that’s for those who have access to treatment.  

Last year the World Health Organization (WHO), WFMH, and United for Global Health released a statement calling for greater investment in mental health. In this, they shared that, on average, countries spend only 2% of their health budgets on mental health. This lack of investment is especially concerning considering reports that issues like anxiety and depression are on the rise and have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health continues to persist

Despite increasing awareness and understanding of mental health conditions, the social stigma persists and can have far reaching impacts. It can affect an individual's educational and career opportunities and impact how they are perceived and treated by others in the community. 

In fact, a recent survey of those in Australia living with complex mental health issues found that more than 70% had experienced stigma or discrimination in the past 12 months. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed also revealed the stigma they experienced discouraged them from socialising or pursuing new friendships and relationships. 

Another critical issue here is that the stigma of mental health can prevent people from seeking treatment. One related study found that 86.5% of employed people do not seek help for mental health in Singapore because of stigma.

How businesses can be a part of the solution

Having witnessed first-hand the impact that mental health issues can have when left unaddressed, I believe we need to go back to basics. Breaking the stigma of mental health and no longer allowing it to be treated as a sign of weakness or a taboo subject is a critical priority. 

All of us have a role to play and normalising conversations about mental health concerns is a great place to start. Sometimes this can be as simple as checking in with family, friends, or colleagues and asking if they’re ok. It could also mean sending someone a quick message to let them know they’re in your thoughts. 

At Salesforce, we believe that businesses can be powerful platforms for social change and that our higher purpose is to drive equality for all. It is one of the reasons why it is important for us to shine a light on these issues and why we prioritise the health and wellbeing of our employees and partners. 

As an ally for mental health, we make time to check in with employees and ensure that support is at hand for those who might need it. We also offer all employees and partners with resources to support mental health and wellbeing. These include our B-Well Together series where luminary speakers and experts provide tips and insights into all aspects of mental, physical, and social wellbeing.

We also provide teams with access to Employee Assistance Programmes which offer support for those going through difficult times and needing to find some balance to thrive at home and work. 

I’d encourage other businesses and individuals to use this year’s World Mental Health Day to look for similar ways to support those around them and be part of the solution when it comes to breaking down the stigma and inequity surrounding mental health.

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