World Mental Health Day, which is supported by the United Nations (UN), is annually held on October 10 to raise public awareness about mental health issues worldwide. This event promotes open discussions on illnesses, as well as investments in prevention and treatment services.
World Mental Health Day is observed in more than 100 countries on October 10 through local, regional and national World Mental Health Day commemorative events and programs. Activities include:
World Mental Health Day is an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). The World Health Organization (WHO), which is the UN’s directing and coordinating authority for health, supports this event. The Mental Health Foundation is another organization that is proactive in promoting World Mental Health Day.
World Mental Health Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.
Mental disorders affect nearly 12 percent of the world’s population – about 450 million or one out of every four people around the world – will experience a mental illness that would benefit from diagnosis and treatment. WHO statistics for 2002 showed that 154 million people globally suffered from depression, which is a form of mental illness. According to WHO, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which people realize their own potential, can cope with normal life stresses, can work productively, and can contribute to their community.
Mental health services lack human and financial resources in many countries, particularly low and middle income countries. More funding is needed to promote mental health to increase people’s awareness of the issue. In response to making mental health a global priority, World Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 as an initiative of the WFMH, which has members and contacts in more than 150 countries. Each year the UN, through WHO, actively participates in promoting this event.
The WHO logo or emblem, which was chosen by the first World Health Assembly in 1948, is often associated with the UN’s promotional material for World Mental Health Day. The emblem consists of the UN symbol surmounted by a staff with a snake coiling round it. The staff with the snake has long been a symbol of medicine and the medical profession. It originates from the story of Aesculapius who was revered by the ancient Greeks as a god of healing and whose cult involved the use of snakes.
The UN logo is often associated with marketing and promotional material for this event. It features a projection of a world map (less Antarctica) centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree. The olive branches symbolize peace and the world map depicts the area of concern to the UN in achieving its main purpose, peace and security. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles.