World Mental Health Day 2016

Today is World Mental Health Day 2016. For those unaware, it's an annual event first set up in 1992 by Dick Hunter. The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) today recognises that he was a 'man with a dream that mental health concerns would be recognized as an integral part of overall health, and who felt that the mission of WFMH was to seek parity for mental health alongside physical health'. This aim is today recognised around the world and is a key aim in providing mental health services with both 'parity of esteem' and 'no health without mental health' being key terms.

Since 1994, an annual theme has been selected, with the Federation assembling a briefing that could be sent to everyone, free of cost, to allow them to follow the theme in their own way, holding local events within their own budgets. It was a practical way to spread mental health advocacy, drawing attention to the needs of people with mental illnesses and to the importance of mental health. 2016's theme is 'Psychological and Mental Health First Aid'.

When you think about this year's theme, you can see straight away where parity of esteem, or the principle by which mental health must be given equal priority to physical health, is lacking. Think of how many people in our society have, or are encouraged to, take part in CPR training. So if you walk down the street and have a heart attack, you at least have the chance if someone who has received some training coming to your aid. Can we say the same is true when it comes to someone facing a mental health emergency?

Just like the DRABC in CPR, the World Health Organisation highlights 'Prepare...Look, Listen and Link' and Mental Health First Aid International recommends ‘ALGEE'.
Unite is already playing a leading role in this by skilling up its reps in many parts of the UK with training on mental health basics. With a membership of over 1.4 million it certainly has an important opportunity to help. And at last week's Unite/Mental Health Nursing Association meeting, the committee discussed further about what extra we could do.

I want to finish by wishing you a thoughtful, productive and enjoyable #WMHD16 and if you want to share any of those thoughts, get in touch! I’ll be at the Future MHN Conference in Huddersfield. Follow @Unite_MHNA for more!

Dave Munday, Lead professional officer, Unite in Health