On October 10th 2021 we celebrate World Mental Health Day! Established by the World Health Organisation, each year on October 10th we’re prompted to raise awareness of mental issues around the world, and to galvanise our communities in support of mental wellbeing. Aiming to give voice to individuals and organisations who are involved with mental health, the day asks us to consider what more we can do to make mental health care an accessible option for everyone around the world.
In 2021, the theme for #WorldMentalHealthDay is Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality. Access to support services is crucial for those suffering poor mental health, and is made all the more important as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its second year and lockdowns continue in Victoria and New South Wales. Harsh restrictions across the country have undoubtedly impacted upon mental health: in our 2020 Social Inclusion Index, up to 40% of respondents reported that their wellbeing had been negatively affected by pandemic restrictions such as travel bans and limits on gatherings. In the same 2020-21 period, we found a clear link between discrimination and wellbeing, with people who face discrimination regularly reporting 15% lower wellbeing. Today, World Mental Health Day therefore serves as a pertinent reminder to understand that prejudice and discrimination have incredibly detrimental impacts beyond exclusion.
This year’s theme is even more relevant given that mental health services in Australia have been overwhelmed as a result of the pandemic. Waiting lists for psychologists in Sydney had ballooned to up to three months by August this year, and a record 15 million applications for subsidised mental health services were processed by the Medicare Benefits Schedule between March 2020 and April 2021. These subsidised services refer to the government-supported Mental Health Treatment Plan, which gives individuals access to up to 20 psychologist appointments per year.
Fittingly, World Mental Health Day coincides with World Homeless Day. Beginning in 2010, it falls on October 10th each year and aims to draw attention to the needs of homeless people, and encourage people at a local level to respond to the issue of homelessness and actively engage with homeless people. Around one in three homeless people reporting to Specialist Homelessness Services in 2019-20 were experiencing a mental health issue, a figure which has continued to increase annually since 2011. On top of this, the rate of mental health issues amongst the homeless community is seven times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People than non-Indigenous Australians. Clearly, poor mental health is a growing issue facing homeless Australians — so today, let’s ask ourselves what we can do to make a difference. When was the last time you said hello to a homeless person? Bought a coffee for them on a cold day? Or even just smiled and asked their name? Remember, little actions like these can make a big difference to a stranger’s day.
For further reading on mental health, you may be interested in:
More information on World Mental Health Day and how you can get involved can be found at https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day/2021
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