World (Mental) Health Day 2013

 By Huff Po

By Huff Po

There have been quite a few activities going on today to celebrate World Mental Health Day 2013. It is even trending on Twitter. This is an initiative of the Mental Health Foundation which has been growing every year. The activities that Time to Change (a joint initiative of Mind and Rethink Mental Illness) have organised are particularly inspiring. They have been doing a fantastic job in reducing stigma and getting people to pledge their support of people suffering from mental health conditions. Russ and I know from personal experience with our patients that some times employers can be not very supportive and worsen the problem, making it even more difficult for the person to recover. This is particularly concerning when we know that in some cases the same employers would be much more supportive of someone with a similarly disabling and similarly chronic physical health condition.

We at Virtually Free believe that in part this is the problem; this divide. As physicians and readers of the most recent research in mental health problems we know that this divide is only (ironically) in our minds. Every day there is more and more evidence that all these conditions have a very physical basis in detectable changes in the brain. We also learn that physical health problems can be made worse by mental health problems and vice versa. This should not be surprising as the human body is a system of systems; a malfunction in one will affect others. An easy example is how a poorly functioning heart will affect the lungs, kidneys, liver and, of course, the brain. In our opinion all health is mental health and all mental health is health. It is as ridiculous as dividing health into breathing health and then the rest of health.

Today I have had a great day at the hospital were I work. We had quizzes, prizes and cake to celebrate the day. However, I wish for the day that World Mental Health Day would be naturally celebrated as part of World Health Day. It is great that we have the Time To Change initiative, but it is sad that we still very much need it.

We are also trying to raise awareness in our own small way; we call it Face your Fear for Halloween. If you have a fear of spiders here's what you need to do:

  1. Make a pledge to face your fear
  2. Get your family and friends to sponsor you and donate to Anxiety UK
  3. Download our app to help you face your fear: Phobia Free. We have made it free this month so there are no excuses
  4. Juggle some tarantulas on Halloween while you raise awareness of anxiety disorders
  5. Feel great!