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What’s the difference between a broken bone and a mental health issue? Both are serious, both require immediate attention, but one is often hidden and left untreated. (Hint: it’s not the broken bone.)  

This year’s World Mental Health Day is October 10th and marks just over a year and a half since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now more than ever, open conversations about mental health are essential, especially in the workplace. A recent study revealed that 78% of global employees say their mental health has been negatively impacted by COVID-19, and 76% believe their company should be doing more for their mental health.  

“…75% to 95% of people with mental health issues in low- and middle-income countries don’t have access to any mental health services.”

Worldwide, nearly 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, yet less than one-third get the treatment they need. For some, the stigma around mental health prevents them from seeking help. For others, there’s a severe lack of mental health resources available. According to the World Federation for Mental Health, 75% to 95% of people with mental health issues in low- and middle-income countries don’t have access to any mental health services. Even in high-income countries, mental health support is limited and continues to be associated with stigma.  

In response to these alarming statistics, the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is “Mental Health in an Unequal World,” emphasizing the need to make mental health care accessible for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic factors. At the World Health Assembly in May, governments across the globe recognized the severity of the current mental health crisis and expressed their commitment to work towards making mental health care available to all.  

How can we make strides towards meeting this goal in the workplace? The first step is building a stigma-free environment where employees feel comfortable seeking mental health support. It’s also essential to implement workplace wellness programs to help employees get ahead of adversity and build resilience.  

“…rather than seeing mental health as a 1 in 5 issue, let’s see it as a 5 in 5 opportunity.”

Making this a reality begins with changing our perception and understanding of mental health. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. And just as physical health fluctuates, mental health also has its ups and downs. Rather than seeing mental health as a 1 in 5 issue, let’s see it as a 5 in 5 opportunity. We all have a part to play in reducing the shame around it and breaking the barriers that prevent people from seeking the treatment they need. If you had a broken bone, you wouldn’t hide it from your colleagues, would you? Mental health is no different. It’s time to open the conversation, and that conversation today includes so much more than the ‘issues’ of mental health; or mental illness. 

Today and every day, remember to check in with yourself and the people in your life. There’s no health without mental health.