Mental Health Matters: The Role of Psychological Wellbeing During COVID-19
Anjana Rajesh, Oakton High School, Vienna, Virginia, USA
Stress is an increasingly prevalent aspect of our daily lives. Adults often overwork themselves trying to provide for their families, taking no breaks to relax, and students continuously stress themselves out about grades and tests. Additionally, personal relationships and activities outside of school and work add to an individual's stress. Stress ultimately contributes to mental health which is an extremely important factor in global health and development.
The mental health of individuals worldwide has been on the decline, with depression being one of the leading causes of disability and suicide among 15 to 29-year-olds (WHO, n.d.). Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of mental illness among adults in the US in 2017-2018 was 19%, an increase of 1.5 million compared to the previous year. Youth mental health issues were also growing, with 9.7% of youth suffering from depression compared to 9.2% in the previous year (Mental Health America, n.d.).
From January to September 2020, 315,220 people took the anxiety screen, and 534,784 people took the depression screen – a 93% increase and 62% increase, respectively, compared to 2019 (Mental Health America, n.d.). More people are reporting frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm than have ever been recorded in the MHA Screening program since its launch in 2014 (Mental Health America, n.d.). These statistics indicate a worldwide decline in mental health as individuals are increasingly seeking mental health resources.
According to the United Nations, poor mental health is a cause and consequence of poverty, compromised education, gender inequality, ill-health, violence, and other global challenges. It also impedes the individual’s capacity to work productively, realize their potential, and contribute to their community. Poor mental health has become a severe deprecator of global health, with depression ranked third in the global burden of disease but projected to rank first by 2030 (UN, n.d.). In addition, problems with mental health have been linked to decreased performance in the workplace in both developing and developed countries.
Mental health illnesses need to be addressed, and the stigma surrounding mental health needs to be removed. Recently, it became a priority on the global health agenda; in 2019, the WHO launched the WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health (2019-2023): Universal Health Coverage ensuring access to quality and affordable care for conditions in 12 priority countries to 100 million more people. Mental health also became included in the Sustainable Development Goals, and WHO continues to integrate it into general health care, disease programs, promotion, policy and legislation, and daily support programs for communities. The stigma around mental health is beginning to depreciate, but mental health needs must be prioritized to effectively improve individual wellbeing worldwide.
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