By Dr Bilal Shirazi | 06 Oct 2020

World Mental Health Day 2020

The 10 October marks World Mental Health Day. In the current global environment with many people still suffering from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased focus on mental health and wellbeing worldwide. Our latest blog looks at why mental health is important and how you can get involved in this important campaign. 


The 10 October marks World Mental Health Day. Launched in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), today the WFMH, World Health Organization (WHO), and United for Global Mental Health jointly run the event.

In the current global environment with many people still suffering from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased focus on mental health and wellbeing worldwide. 

What are the Aims of World Mental Health Day?

World Mental Health Day aims to provide the necessary information, encouragement, and opportunities to make a positive difference around mental health issues, including:

  • Individuals are encouraged to take self-care actions to protect their mental health and to support family members and friends who may be struggling.
  • Employers are encouraged to invest in employee assistance programmes, vital in a world where more people are working remotely than ever before. (We recently made available a complimentary EAP service to our SME clients).
  • Governments are driven to increase their commitments to mental health by establishing and improving services.
  • Journalists are encouraged to shed light on mental health services in their location and what improvements are possible.

Each year World Mental Health Day also focuses on a specific theme – in 2020 the focus is on promoting increased investment in mental health services across the globe.

Why is Mental Health Important?

Mental health issues are highly prevalent amongst the global population, despite the fact they are often less talked about than physical health problems. According to the WHO:

  • One billion people worldwide live with a mental health disorder;
  • Mental, neurological and substance use disorders make up 10% of the global disease burden;
  • Depression is one off the leading causes of disability, affecting more than 260 million people; and
  • Someone commits suicide every 40 seconds.

There is also much evidence to demonstrate the link between mental and physical health. The Lancet’s most recent Global Burden of Disease Study, published in 2017, notes that mental health directly contributes to disability and death, including the early onset of heart disease and elevated risk of stroke. The global economy is also estimated to lose USD 1 trillion a year in productivity due to depression and anxiety.

What are Current Global Investment Levels in Mental Health Services?

The WHO estimates that, on average, countries spend only 2% of their annual health budget on mental health provision. A joint release from the three organisations involved in promoting World Mental Health Day said that mental health is “one of the most neglected areas of public health”.

While 2% of some countries' health budgets equates to a considerable sum, this low global average reveals stark differences geographically, with many countries spending far less. This is compounded by issues around inconsistent access to mental health services, particularly given the stigma attached to it which may prevent people from seeking treatment, as well as poor quality services in some areas and affordability issues.

Conservative estimates say that 75% of people worldwide dealing with a mental health condition receive no treatment at all.

Mental Health in a COVID-19 World

While World Mental Health Day is nearly 30 years old, this year it is particularly pertinent as we continue to face a global pandemic worldwide.

Alongside both the general health and economic impacts, COVID-19 has had a significant effect on the mental health of the global community. Those who lost their jobs or who have been isolated during "lockdowns" may have faced depression, anxiety and loneliness. We also know that healthcare workers have experienced increased anxiety, which was a focus of World Patient Safety Day last month.

There are many reports worldwide of significant numbers of people experiencing mental health issues for the first time during the pandemic. Conversely amongst those who already suffered from a mental health condition, COVID-19 has been a significant contributing factor in the worsening of their condition.

Yet despite an understanding that demand for mental health provision increases in the aftermath of a global crisis, progress in this area continues to lag. As such, this year’s World Mental Health Day theme around the need for increased investment in mental health services is even more relevant!

How Can I Get Involved?

There are a variety of ways you can get involved and support this important campaign. You can find out more and download useful resources at the links below:

There are also a number of virtual events you can participate in including:

World Mental Health Day 2020

You don't have to actively participate in World Mental Health Day to make a difference. Even something as simple as picking up the phone to ask a friend or neighbour how they are coping in the current pandemic situation could have a positive impact.

You should also use World Mental Health Day as an opportunity to reflect on your own mental health and wellbeing, and take time out to do something positive for you and your family. During these challenging times, we all need to remember that our mental health is just as important as our physical health.

By Dr Bilal Shirazi

Dr. Bilal has more than 17 years of experience working across clinical medicine and the health insurance sector, with particular expertise in health insurance administration and operations. In addition to his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBBS), he has an MBA and is an Associate Member of the Life Office Management Association (LOMA).  

See Dr Bilal Shirazi's profile