World Mental Health Day (10th October)
How to support those in your life who are battling mental health conditions
Words by Aakanksha Tangri, Founder of Re:Set
Every year on the 10th of October, World Mental Health Day is recognized and celebrated with the general goal to raise awareness around mental health and mobilize a movement to dispel the stigma and start a conversation. World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in October 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, an initiative created by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to WHO, more than 450 million individuals globally have experienced some form of a mental health disorder and one in four individuals during their lifetime will develop a mental or behavioral disorder. Each year, the focus is on an aspect of mental health, with this year’s being, understandably, around the effects of COVID-19.
Earlier last year, the Dubai Health Authority also organized the Dubai Health Forum to introduce nine new initiatives for a mental health strategy, including:
- Mental health legislation
- Governance and regulation
- Promotion and awareness
- Early intervention
- Innovative models of service delivery
- Workforce development, recruitment and retention
- Facilities and infrastructure
- Patient empowerment programmes
As mental health support is crucial, it can, however, be tricky for people to know how to support someone going through mental health challenges. Here Aakanksha Tangri, Founder of Re:Set provides tools you can use to help those who may be hesitant to seek help:
To begin with, individual communities need to take steps to build a support group for family and friends, creating a safe space which allows for the freedom to express feelings without judgement. Mental health is not binary, it’s not about being sick or healthy. There is an in-between state where the signs and symptoms of mental disorders might not be obvious. According to Ayukta Thakur, co-founder of Integreat Center – Dubai’s first holistic center for young adults with special needs, saying statements such as “don’t give up” and “just keep fighting” can actually stunt people’s willingness to seek out advice when going through mental health struggles.
The key is to stay diligent and aware of the state of your own and others’ mental health. It is essential to make a habit of noticing when someone close to you is not feeling great and reaching out to them, by showing support and providing encouragement to seek treatment, and vice versa. We, as a society, should strive to pick up our fellow human beings. Something as small as checking up on your neighbour or colleague could have a beneficial effect on someone’s mental well-being by providing a reminder that someone is always there to listen.
Our job as a community should be to encourage and embolden people to seek mental health support, normalize vulnerability and to destroy the illusion of a seemingly “perfect state of mind.” Loneliness has been found as a key link to severe mental health disorders. Providing people with a space to admit that they are not well, as well as to open an honest dialogue about their emotional and mental states is important in spreading acknowledgement and acceptance around mental health.
“It is OK to say I’m not OK,” says Dr. Catherine Frogely, a clinical psychologist, based in Dubai, when speaking on the significance of normalizing the need to seek therapy. “Talking about your feelings sets a good example and is a helpful strategy to make people feel comfortable when speaking about their mental health.”
“When we are sick, such as having a cold, we go to the doctor, take medicine or seek natural remedies. So why do we not do the same when it comes to mental health?” asks Ayukta Thakur. It is through this realization that it is absolutely critical to eradicating the stigma attached to mental health and seeking therapy.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), Dubai and the UAE are currently behind the global average in terms of the amount of psychiatrists and psychiatric beds per 100,000 population. Spreading understanding and sharing stories around what it’s like to live with mental health challenges through online platforms such as Re:Set, allows for in-depth and diverse discussions around key topics such as mental health, wellbeing, inclusivity, parenting, gender and education; pivotal in changing society’s perception of mental health issues. As an online resource, Re:Set creates a safe space while shedding light on topics that aren’t always brought to the forefront, but are important for the masses to talk about. Unlike physical health, because of the stigma, mental health is not generally discussed publicly, and that needs to change. We need to adopt open communication on mental health challenges and be able to assist others before a possible crisis arises. Re:Set’s purpose is to provide a voice for everyday people to share their real-life experiences and ignite discussion; be that teachers, educators, counsellors, parents, students, children, people of determination or family members.
“It comes back to building awareness and education about the significance of mental health support. Also making the whole community open to talking about seeking therapy” says Dr. Frogley. It is with this in mind that Re:Set’s mission is to start conversations and propose solutions, as well as guide and encourage education around tough topics to provide in-depth understanding, support and resources for those in need.
Re:Set is an online resource of tools and stories around education, parenting, gender, inclusivity, mental health and well-being. Collaborating with thought-leaders, government officials, parents, educators, counsellors and corporate ninjas, Re:Set provides an in-depth and trusted resource where people can connect, get inspired and learn from one another. Promising a safe, inclusive space that encourages dialogue on issues that matter and inspire change, Re:Set starts conversations via insightful storytelling, proposes solutions, and encourages education around these tough subjects, whilst aiming to dispel misconceptions and stigma surrounding such topics as mental health.