World Mental Health Day 2020.
Has COVID-19 increased awareness of neglected mental health concerns?
“You’re just looking for attention” “Just man up!” “It’s all in your head” “Just try to be positive!” “Suicide is so selfish.”
Have you heard any of these phrases being used on someone who has expressed a mental health concern in their lives? Unfortunately, despite significant medical progress and improved access to healthcare people in Sub-Saharan Africa and certainly many other parts of the world are hesitant to openly talk about their mental health, due to ill-conceived stigma and the perception that mental health issues only affect the “fragile-minded”. When we stigmatize and dismiss someone who says they are experiencing anxiety, depression, or any other mental health condition, we are essentially worsening their emotional turmoil which could lead to detrimental ramifications such as suicide, aggressive and delinquent behaviour and other conditions.
Challenges faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted more than ever, that we must ensure that mental health is prioritized in our humanitarian response efforts. As the world struggles to bring the virus under control and to find sustainable solutions, we are all faced with new realities of working from home, unemployment, children’s homeschooling, and lack of physical contact with our loved ones. Consequently, anxiety, depression, isolation, uncertainty, and emotional distress are at an all-time high. It is normal to experience these emotions during this time of emergency and uncertainty.
In some ways, the pandemic has helped raise further awareness of mental health conditions and has led to advocacy groups and mental health stakeholders pushing more fiercely the work towards this year’s theme of greater investment and greater access to everyone, everywhere. Nobody should be denied access to mental health care because they are poor or live in remote areas. If anything, now is the time to strengthen these efforts. Blink International is at the forefront in contributing to this mission by using existing channels to increase access to healthcare for children and youth. Through our preliminary research, we have identified gaming as a suitable platform that can increase access to mental healthcare as researchers suggest that gaming can be used as an effective therapeutic tool amongst its other social and cognitive benefits. We are excited to explore this exciting opportunity further if it means reaching the most marginalized and isolated in our communities.
Every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide. Annually, this represents over 800,000 people that die by suicide, which is more than people dying by war and homicide put together (WHO, 2018).
So, the next time someone tells you about their mental health concerns, pause and listen without judgement. Assure the person that there is nothing wrong with seeking help, especially from a professional therapist or psychiatrist. Most importantly, remember that self-love and self-care are a necessity, not a luxury. So, on this day I urge you to take care of yourself! The world needs you; you are here to make a difference and your life certainly matters!
Mental Health Officer