Although we’ve made great progress in recent years, mental health still isn’t taken as seriously in as physical health. In the UK, mental health only accounts for around 6% of the health budget. And despite changing attitudes, mental health problems still carry a great deal of unnecessary shame, stigma and misunderstanding.
So to mark World Health Day, we wanted to share five reasons why mental health is just as important as physical health.
1. There is no health without mental health
Although we often distinguish mental and physical health, in practice they’re inseparable. Our bodies and minds are deeply interconnected: poor mental health impacts our immune system, cardiovascular health and digestion, while taking proper care of our bodies can make a big difference to our mental wellbeing.
2. Mental ill health has a big global impact
Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the global disease burden. Depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting an estimated 264 million, while suicide is the biggest killer of young men under 50 in the UK.
3. Mental health is universal
We all have mental health. Just like physical health, mental health exists on a spectrum and includes people from all ethnicities and religions (here's some more on how Muslims can suffer from poor mental health). Around 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem, but we all have difficult mental health days, and we will all benefit from a world where mental health is taken as seriously as physical health.
4. Mental health is underfunded and under-researched
Despite all this, mental health remains underfunded and under-researched. In the UK, mental health researchers receive only 5.5% of the UK health research budget. Mental health services often lack the resources needed to meet growing demand, with long waiting lists, budget cuts and restrictions on who can access care.
5. Looking after our minds has never been more important
In the wake of a global pandemic, mental health is something we need to be taking seriously. According to research by the World Health Organisation, the pandemic has disrupted mental health services in 93% of countries, against a backdrop of increasing demand. Given that social isolation, health anxiety, bereavement and financial instability are all risk factors for mental illness, the impact on our minds is likely to be significant.