Mental health is everyone’s responsibility, the government, schools, workplaces, communities, and even non-governmental/not for-profit companies. So much so that the UN has said that mental health services should be an essential part of the respective government’s response to Covid-19.
Role of the government: Governments across the world have huge responsibilities and roles to play in ensuring the mental wellness of their citizens. They frame public policies that regulate treatment, systems, and even providers of treatment. They also set a basic framework of standards in terms of treatment and medication which can then be expanded upon by local governments and other relevant authorities. Apart from the mentioned, they are also involved in funding and supporting research with regards to mental health. However, of late there has been a huge outcry by people across the world due to the cut in government budgets for mental health. This comes at a time where mental illness is turning out to be the next big pandemic.
Role of communities: The WHO states that Nongovernmental organizations have been important in mental health movements throughout history. A favorable social environment can reduce stigma and fasten the recovery process of mentally ill members of the community. Similarly, a negative environment can increase discrimination and stigma. The WHO suggests that communities can help alleviate mental illnesses by providing accurate information about mental disorders, allotting volunteers for suicide prevention, and also taking help from traditional healers. The WHO further states that shifting care from institutions to communities can be more effective in tackling mental illnesses.
Role of schools: Children’s mental health is said to be one of the pressing social issues and due to this teachers find themselves at the heart of this crisis. Teachers across the globe have been noticing an upward tick in stress, anxiety as well as depression resulting in self-harm and at times even suicides. Teachers are helpless! With specialized training lacking, they find themselves unprepared amidst this humanitarian crisis. There have been intense debates and discussions about including mental health into the curriculum to help improve awareness and knowledge of mental health among students. Schools should also strive to create an inclusive and safe space for their students.
Role of offices/workplaces: Mental health is an uncomfortable topic to be talking about at the workplace. Disclosing a mental condition can result in stigma, colleagues treating them differently or at times might even cost their job. Employers suffer losses in billions due to unproductivity and sick leaves. While tackling such issues can be complex and tiring, HR professionals and employers are in a powerful position to do a lot. They can increase awareness in the workplace about mental health, offer training and support to managers and team leaders, encourage a balance between work and life, cover therapy and medications under the employee health insurance scheme, and many more.
A lot can be done, we all need to come together for better mental health.
The problem of mental health has persisted between us for years, more so now than ever. It has been an underlying epidemic, gone unnoticed and untreated for decades or rather centuries. Mental health has been hiding behind the walls of stigma and discrimination for too long now. Its prolonged effects on society in terms of disability are severe. However, over the last few years, the world has become increasingly aware of mental illness.
We as a society need to come together and invest in mental health for a better future. Investment both in terms of financial and human resources. Governments need to spend more of their healthcare budgets on mental health by setting up the required infrastructure, training professionals, and promoting mental health.
Governments also need to do much when it comes to the removal of barriers to access proper mental healthcare. Stigma, lack of medications, lack of insurance cover, lack of mental health policies are just some of the many barriers that governments need to address soon.
For the betterment of its people, governments need to frame public health policies, come up with plans, and develop initiatives that will make mental healthcare an essential part of its public health system. It’s not just governments that need to invest but communities, international organizations, trusts/foundations, and even businesses.
In countries where there isn’t adequate spending or allotment of budgets for mental health, the situation will continue to be dire. Poor provision of mental health care and inadequate resources to help people fight mental illnesses can hamper the country’s progress.