It’s Mental Health Week here in Canada! This year’s theme, chosen by the sponsor, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), is “#GetLoud about what mental health really is.” I am so pleased that my country marks this occasion and sees the worthiness in promoting this cause. I am passionate about breaking the stigma against mental illness and to do that, we all need to #GetLoud about our experiences. Count me in!
But as I began to research the origins of Mental Health Week both in Canada and abroad, I noticed some immense gaps in the international level of involvement when it comes to promoting mental health…
In the UK
In the UK, they have what’s called Mental Health Awareness Week one week after us (13–19 May). The theme for that? “Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies.”
What if you live in Australia? There, you have to wait for Mental Health Week from October 5–11, 2019. The theme this year: “Mental Health: What do you know?” (The website also mentions: “We also support World Mental Health Day on October 10th, 2019.”)
Back in Canada and the USA, we also have a Mental Illness Awareness Week in October from October 6–12; it starts and ends just one day after Australia’s Mental Health Week.
In South Africa, the whole of October is “Mental Health Awareness Month.”
Confused about all the different dates, names and themes?
But even more disturbing than the lack of global co-ordination on this matter is the fact that if you do a random search for Mental Health Weeks or Months in countries as diverse as India, China, Indonesia, Zambia, Costa Rica and Brazil, you will find absolutely no evidence that either governments or community organizations are taking any action to promote mental health.
Call to Action
There is no unity of thought and action on this topic around the world. I therefore call on the World Health Organization to work with member states to break down the existing national silos, to encourage and support all countries to co-ordinate their efforts and learn from each other, and to promote unified international efforts around global Mental Health Days, Weeks and Months to ensure that this topic is given the attention and funding it deserves, year-round.
Imagine how much more effective our efforts would be if people all around the world were rising up at the same time(s), under the same banner, galvanized around a common theme!
To your mental health,