The World Mental Health Day was first observed 28 years back on October 10, 1992, as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) that was primarily aimed at supporting campaigning for mental health, educating, and raising awareness. Since 1996, World Mental Health Day has been observed with themes that focus on specific aspects of mental health. 

In 2020, as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, billions of people all over the world have been confronted by the unprecedented mental health consequences and the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has taken this opportunity to promote the campaign on 10 October 2020 with the theme Mental Health for all: Greater Investment – Greater Access. 

Dr. Daniels, President of WFMH says, “Now more than ever greater investment in mental health is needed to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to mental health care. The under investment in mental health has left large treatment gaps globally.” She added that mental health is an investment and not an expense and should be prioritized to avert a further catastrophe.

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. It refers to the healthy expression of emotions and healthy functioning which are the keys to emotional well-being, psychological well-being, and social well-being. The expected outcome of this is to realize one’s own potential, how one can cope with the normal stresses of life, working productively, and maintaining healthy relationships. But mental health has always been a big taboo and mostly ignored in Bangladesh. This leads to most not seeking help, often even in dire conditions.    

National Institute of Mental Health with the technical guide of the World Health Organization (WHO), conducted a survey named “National Mental Health Survey, Bangladesh 2018-19” which revealed that nearly 17% of adults in Bangladesh are suffering from mental health issues, where 16.8% are men and 17% are women, and among them, 92.3% do not seek medical attention.

Research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of the adult population in Bangladesh says that the prevalence of anxiety symptoms and depressive symptoms was 33.7% and 57.9%, respectively, and 59.7% reported mild to extremely severe levels of stress.

After being confronted by COVID-19 we have come to realize that there is no way to ignore the investment in mental health. Ensuring greater investment in mental health is a requirement, not a cost especially during these extraordinary times. So, to avert a further catastrophe, awareness and treatment of mental health must be prioritized.   

“We are already seeing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental well-being, and this is just the beginning. Unless we make serious commitments to scale up investment in mental health right now, the health, social and economic consequences will be far-reaching,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Mental health is a continuous chain of processes. A parent with a healthy mental health condition can bring up their children with a healthy mental condition, family, and society with healthy mental health can contribute to creating empathetic, respectful, and resilient people. Creating awareness with effective information, promoting help-seeking behavior by addressing stigma plays a vital role to use the access of all facilities by government and non-government organizations.

Let’s join the movement collectively to make a commitment, and ensure our role for a nation with healthy mental health.

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