Until recent years, mental health was treated as something separate from our physical health. Now, we’re discovering that they are both tied together, each as important as the other. World Health Day is observed by the United Nations on April 7, and this year the focus is on building a fairer, healthier world. Not only will these efforts help people live more healthy lives physically, but there are many ways that working toward a fairer world will help our mental wellness, too.
How Inequality Contributes to Mental Illness
Many studies have shown that there is a connection between a person’s mental health and the conditions that they live in. If someone experiences inequality in society from things like poverty, racial or sexual discrimination, or unaccomodated disability, it is common for them to also experience mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. When we work towards a society without discrimination, we eliminate these factors that harm the mental health of these marginalized groups. You can read more about the work by Ontario-based organization, More Feet on the Ground, and their findings on the role that equity plays in mental and physical health here.
Health Equity: The Prescription for A Happier Society
There is no simple fix for making our health systems more fair for all, and it can depend heavily on where you live. Regardless of how your country addresses healthcare, there are many things that can be done to improve where you’re at. To start, look at how your community addresses equality in how people can access care for both their physical and mental health.
The term used by experts to describe fairness in our health systems is “Health Equity.” As experts learn the impact that negative social factors can have on health, a sharper focus has been put on addressing health equity across the globe. Many believe that solving the issues that prevent true health equity can be the key to improving the physical and mental health of millions of people. To learn more about the term “Health Equity” and how it is used by public health experts, you can read this article by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Helping Others Access Care
The problems stemming from discrimination and poverty that impact people’s access to care are complex, and will often take large shifts in society to change. Don’t be discouraged! Individuals can still make a difference in the lives of others. Think of the people in your neighborhood and community who may experience difficulties from things that are out of their control. There are many ways you can support them as they navigate these hard situations and their health. The most important is to learn about their conditions and be empathetic with what they are going through. Often, people experiencing mental health problems are blamed for their own difficulties and society places a stigma on them. This only makes their situation that much harder, as many people and organizations withdraw help. When you see someone struggling, find out what they need, and offer a helping hand with what you have to offer. It may be as simple as offering someone a ride to a doctor’s appointment, or picking up extra groceries to share with them and their families. Approach people with kindness, and you can change someone’s life for the better.