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World Mental Health Day: Mental health is a universal human right

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By: Arshid Qalmi

On October 10th, as the global community observes World Mental Health Day, a profound theme echoes the importance of mental well-being: “Mental Health is a Human Right.” This year’s theme isn’t just a statement; it’s a call to action, urging everyone to recognize and advocate for the rights of those with mental health issues.

Every individual deserves to live without the burden of stigma, discrimination, or neglect, especially those who battle mental health issues. Unfortunately, countless people worldwide face challenges in accessing mental health care. Many are subjected to inhumane treatment, suffer in silence due to stigma, or are unable to find appropriate support. This year’s theme underscores that mental health care isn’t a luxury but a basic human right.

Neglecting mental health doesn’t just harm individuals; it affects society at large. A society that fails to support mental well-being faces decreased productivity, increased healthcare costs, and growing rates of addiction and crime. More importantly, we risk losing the brilliance, creativity, and contributions of those who are hindered by untreated mental health issues.

A primary hurdle in mental health advocacy is the societal stigma attached to it. Awareness campaigns, education, and open conversations can combat misconceptions and normalize mental health discussions.

Governments should prioritize mental health by creating supportive legislation. This includes integrating mental health into public health agendas, allocating appropriate funds, and ensuring that rights are protected.

Making mental health services available and affordable is essential. This means training more professionals, investing in mental health facilities, and ensuring that care is inclusive of everyone, irrespective of their socio-economic background.

Local communities play a crucial role. From offering support groups to creating safe spaces for open dialogues, the power of a compassionate community is immeasurable.

The importance of mental health transcends cultural, economic, and geographical boundaries. Every person, no matter their background or circumstances, can face mental health challenges. It’s crucial to understand that these challenges aren’t indicative of weakness or a lack of willpower; they’re a part of the human experience.

For centuries, health has been primarily associated with the physical body. However, as our understanding has evolved, it’s become clear that health encompasses both the mind and the body. The two are intricately linked. Physical ailments can lead to mental distress, and vice versa. Recognizing this interconnectedness is vital to providing holistic care.

In our digital age, technology offers new opportunities and challenges for mental health. On one hand, it provides unprecedented access to resources, telehealth counselling, and online communities that offer support. On the other hand, the rise in cyberbullying, online harassment, and the pressures of social media can exacerbate mental health issues. As we navigate this new terrain, it’s crucial to harness the benefits of technology while safeguarding against its potential pitfalls.

There’s hope on the horizon. As the global discourse around mental health grows louder, we see more initiatives, policies, and grassroots movements championing mental well-being. We must continue to push the boundaries, advocate for those who can’t, and ensure that future generations grow up in a world where their mental health is valued just as much as their physical health.

World Mental Health Day 2023 isn’t just a day; it’s a movement, a clarion call to each individual, community, and nation. “Mental Health is a Human Right” isn’t merely a slogan but a philosophy that we must internalize and embody. As we commemorate this day, let’s pledge to be more understanding, more compassionate, and more proactive in our approach to mental health. Let’s make this right a reality for everyone, everywhere.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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