It seems like every time we look at a calendar, we see another national or world holiday. There are some silly ones, like National Talk Like A Pirate Day and National Lipstick Day. But there are also some that do more than provide a reason to act out or go shopping. Any day that brings our health and safety to attention can make an impact. World Mental Health Day falls into that exact category. Can you think of a better day to take some time and focus on your mental health?
World Mental Health Day falls on October 10th each year and takes place immediately after Mental Illness Awareness Week. This week is dedicated to focusing on mental health and well-being. In 1990, Congress officially decided to make the first week in October Mental Illness Awareness Week. This was a major step forward in the care and treatment of mental health. Mental health affects everyone, and it was time to make it known.
This year's World Mental Health Day will focus on making mental health and well-being for all a global priority. This focus comes off the back of the pandemic, as many mental health illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, have seen a rise of over 25% during the first year of the pandemic. Unfortunately, while mental health crises rose, access to mental health services fell fast. The mental health field took a massive hit with providers leaving, offices shutting down, and treatment programs being halted. Access for treatment of new mental health concerns was pushed back due to scheduling problems and a severe lack of mental health providers. New mental health patients had to wait upwards of six or more months in some places due to scheduling issues. While treatments were delayed and more triggering issues arose, mental health became a hot topic worldwide.
The World Health Organization hosts World Mental Health Day and works with many different partners to launch the campaign with the theme of the year. This day boosts awareness and gives the world a chance to focus on policy change, creating better conditions for people with mental health, allowing the opportunity to recognize progress in the field, and researching what else can be done.
Over the last two years, the mental health field has been hit with a massive blow. However, the future of mental health is bright. As we are rounding the last portion of the third year of the pandemic, we can see a beacon of hope on the horizon: technology is that beacon.
Technology is at the forefront of the advancement in access to mental health. While COVID-19 did some irreversible damage, it also presented the mental health community with a unique opportunity. With a large portion of the world quarantined in their homes, a need arose to access mental health services virtually. This was not something that generally existed before the pandemic.
The lockdowns opened the door for technology to be created in order to connect people with their providers without ever entering a medical facility. Innovations in the field have created not only digital platforms for pre-existing companies but also have allowed virtual pioneers to develop digital platforms for companies to exist in a fully digital environment. There has been an increase in mental health apps available for phones and tablets, bringing the care we need directly into the hands of those who need it. It is now possible to have comprehensive mental health care, treatments, programs, and medications monitored and maintained entirely online. You can receive mental health care almost immediately in an emergency and know your needs will be met.
This leap into the digital world has positively impacted the mental health field and the needs of so many individuals. In addition to the ease of access, this virtual care has also allowed the opportunity to seek treatment for those who otherwise would not or could not get the help they need. The elderly and teens have been especially vulnerable to the increase in mental health challenges, and they now can receive care and treatment in a manner that fits their unique circumstances. The elderly do not have to worry about transportation needs with virtual care. Youth and teens can now receive care without worrying about the stigma around seeking treatment. Another benefit of virtual care is that people with irregular schedules or crises that fall after regular business hours can now receive care in a 24/7 manner. College students can especially benefit from this, as they often deal with mental health concerns while being bogged down with school and work and usually would not have time to seek health.
We have so much to be thankful for this World Mental Health Day in the mental health field. Advancements in technology are making some significant strides toward access for all. There is still more we can do. This day allows us to take a step back and evaluate how far we have come and how far we still need to go. So this World Mental Health Day, let's ask ourselves, what is our next step to make mental health and well-being for all a global priority?