On World Mental Health Day, it's a good time to remember that your brain, like the rest of your body, needs to be taken care of. If you do have mental health issues, there is nothing wrong with this. Being open about mental illness benefits everyone – especially the person suffering.
These basic facts are overlooked or denied in too many parts of the world and the consequences are severe. Oftentimes, mental illness is regarded skeptically or superstitiously, as if the people suffering are just weak or are possessed by evil spirits. This stigma causes people and socieities in general to bury the idea of mental illness, to conceal and dismiss symptoms, to end research and treatment programs, and to quietly accumulate the debris of suffering.
Globally, one in four people will need mental health care at some point in their lives. This is most likely an underestimate because of the ways in which people avoid and are encouraged to avoid admission of mental illness.
Regardless of the percentage, every country in the world can do a better job at getting people to think about and invest in their mental health. In fact, mental health spending accounts for less than 5% of all government health expenditures in most countries. In India, for example, there are only three psychiatrists for every 1 million people.
But it's not all bad. Many countries are embracing progressive research and treatment programs. For example, Denmark has robust mental health infrastructure that allows 32% of men and 38% of women to receive care at some point in their lives.
The world has made enormous strides over the past century as our understanding of the brain has evolved. World Mental Health Day began 24 years ago and since then, stigmas have been reduced and treatment options have expanded.
And more people are realizing that mental health can and should be promoted on a daily basis — through yoga, meditation, art, exercise, empathy, kindness, and so much more.
Here are some things to think about this Mental Heath Day: