Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is ‘mental health for all’. You could say this statement is a little bit of a misleading one as mental health is a part of all of us. Whether you consider your mental health to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or somewhere in between, we all exist on a scale on wellbeing. You may not think about it daily but you have mental health just like you have physical health.
But the essence of the statement is that we want to achieve good levels of mental health for all. We recognise the need for a universal standard of expectations for mental health support and this is a goal for us all. Where “good” mental health means the same thing to everybody. It is a part of our vision for the future…
Vision is a powerful word when it comes to mental health. We have to have a dream, to coin a popular phrase. It is important that we can express what we want to see in the future state of our world. Do we want:
More people-centric services?
More physical places to go for support?
More stories from people with lived experience?
More policies and strategies that direct transformational change?
All of the above and so much more?
I decided to put this blog out the day before World Mental Health Day when I realised that today is also the 80th birthday of the legendary musician John Lennon. The former Beatle is one my musical inspirations, a genius lyrical wordsmith who in my opinion is one of the greatest songwriters of all time (that statement on its own might stimulate a lot of comments).
Part of Lennon’s defining legacy is the song ‘Imagine’ and I can not think of a better representation of this idea we have of better mental health for all. It is a vision of a world where we all share a life of peace without borders and division, where everyone is treated equally and every individual around the world shares this inspiring vision. When this song was released from the album of the same name in 1971, it lit a fire in the imagination of all who heard it and could understand this aspirational concept was something we should strive to achieve.
Imagine a world where nobody feels afraid to talk about how they are feeling or ask for help with their mental health…
Imagine a world without stigma and discrimination against people suffering from mental health conditions or challenges with their wellbeing…
Imagine a world where anyone from suffering poor mental health can access the help and support they need to recover…
Imagine a world where we are all treated with equality and equity regardless of how we are identified or the situation in which we find ourselves…
As humans, we are blessed with not only the imagination to see what our future could be (the vision) but more importantly, we have the ability to take action that will see that future become a reality (the action). In many ways, mental health is one area of our lives where we need to see more of both the vision and the action. We need help to not only visualise the possibilities but to implement real change that will make the world a better place.
So, this year, what can you do about it? As John Lennon said, I am not the only dreamer and there are wonderful, passionate campaigners, activists and supporters out there with a strong vision on the world we want to see. You can be a part of that movement by pushing for change; sign a petition, join a debate, listen to your peers, add your voice to the many who already speak out. In these uncertain times, we need to use every platform available to us for sharing our stories and making a case for change.
That will help us to express the vision, but what about action?
One of the lessons 2020 has already taught is the power of social movements to highlight the need for change but that the journey is not over until we see real change introduced. I was delighted to see the news this week that Welsh Government have appointed a minister to take specific responsibility for mental health and wellbeing. This is in part a direct action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic but it is hopefully the start of more proactive change across the country.
There are difficult months ahead for many of us and we may not know now what we want from the brave, new world that emerges after the pandemic is over. But we know that the impact of this pandemic on our mental health will be around for years. Research by the charity Mind shows that 60% of adults and 68% of young people say that their mental health has got worse during lockdown. This means that the time for action is now to make sure there is support in place for “mental health for all”.
You can do so much but even doing just one action can help someone with their mental health. Whether it is at home, in work or within your community, you can do lots of things from sponsored activities to raise awareness of mental health to just talking to someone and asking “how are you today”. Every action we all take is a step further on the path towards that vision of the future we all want to see.
This World Mental Health Day, remember to look after yourself and try to imagine a future when every day is a good day for the mental health of all the peoples of the world.