Challenge for World Mental Health Day – by Linda Pacha



October 11th is World Mental Health Day, a day we observe every year with the objective to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world. It is a day we talk about what we need to do to help others become more mentally healthy.

I think we need to help others understand that our psychological well being is just as important as our physical health. We need to convince others that getting mental health treatment when they have a problem is no different than seeking treatment for any physical ailment. Once we accomplish this goal, people will feel more comfortable reaching out for help.

The mental health community is trying to no longer use the term “mental illness” so to avoid the stigma that is attached to it. Instead, professionals encourage others to become “mentally healthy.” People often have difficulties thinking of themselves, or their loved ones, as having a mental illness. It is much easier to think they have to improve their mental health rather than seek treatment for a mental illness. Why? Because our society is used to trying to get healthy. We run, jog, take spin classes, and do numerous other things in the name of health. In fact, every New Year’s Eve we vow to get more healthy. And if we do get something like cancer, we go to the doctor. Even if we have something less severe like a bad cold or the flu, we still go to the doctor in an effort to get well faster.

A shift in focus from mental illness to mental health is helpful because it seems more positive and less scary to people, but there shouldn’t be any stigma attached to it either way. A person with a mental illness shouldn’t be ashamed to go for psychological help, just like he wouldn’t feel embarrassed if he were seeing a physician for treatment of a physical illness. A mental illness shouldn’t be considered any more taboo than a physical illness. Certainly the more we talk about mental health/mental illness, the more comfortable we will be with the topic no matter how we refer to it.

So on this World Mental Health Day, if you know any people who are experiencing problems and having difficulties navigating through life, reach out and talk about it with them. Encourage them to seek help just as if they were going to a physician for an illness. Call it mental health, mental illness or whatever makes you and them most comfortable – but just keep talking about it.