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World Mental Health Day: Mental Health in an Unequal World

By Lauryn October 15, 2021

World Mental Health Day is celebrated each year on October 10th. First celebrated in 1992 at the behest of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), World Mental Health Day is an effort to raise international awareness of mental health issues, reduce the stigma associated with mental health, and mobilize support of mental health resources. In early 2021, President of the WFMH, Professor Gabriel Ivbijaro, MBE JP, announced the theme for World Mental Health Day as Mental Health in an Unequal World. On the heels of a divisive 2020, the WFMH hopes to use this year’s World Mental Health Day to highlight the inequalities that exist today when it comes to mental health services and support for those with mental health conditions.

Mental health inequalities in the face of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted not only the importance of taking care of ones’ mental health, but the vast inequalities that continue to exist in mental health treatment and care. While first used as an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19, physical – or social – distancing, has led to an increase in social isolation. The significant changes in daily lives as a result, including working from home, unemployment, homeschooling children, and cancelling of social engagements placed strain on mental health. With the increase in mental health insecurities, the lack of mental health services became glaring.

During the pandemic significant strides were made to make options, such as telemedicine, more readily available to individuals who needed them. Despite the efforts made, it did not completely solve the inequality problem in treatment and care access. Telemedicine, while typically a sufficient means to provide treatment, lacks the in-person value that some individuals may need. Telemedicine can also only be an option if there is internet access for all parties involved. For those where internet access may not be readily available or affordable, telemedicine cannot be counted on as an adequate source of treatment.

The importance of seeking treatment
The WFHM recognizes the importance of access to mental health treatment for all individuals. In promoting its 2021 theme, the WFHM developed a slogan, “Mental Health care for all: let’s make it a reality.” Even with proper treatment, mental health impairments can become debilitating and life-altering, which is why access to treatment is so important. Lack of treatment can result in an increase in hospitalizations, decrease in physical health and, in some case, early death. On the other hand, access to treatment can positively physical health by improving sleeping habits, the immune system, and overall lower pain levels.

Mental Health and SSDI benefits
For millions of Americans, their mental health is a significant roadblock in returning to the workforce. As with other invisible disabilities, mental health impairments may prevent individuals from engaging in full-time employment, thus turning to file for income replacement benefits, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to support themselves and their families. In 2019, about 35% of all disabled beneficiaries receiving SSDI benefits listed a mental health disorder as at least one of their disabling impairments. For individuals who are unable to work and expect to be out of work for at least twelve months, they can apply for SSDI benefits are a means of income replacement. Whether condition(s) are mental or physical, the applicant will need to meet Social Security’s strict standards of disability. The Social Security Administration recognizes the impairment mental conditions can have on individuals and thus can establish them as a permanent disability.

Nothing in this post is intended as advice or a suggestion to elect or not elect to claim benefits of any kind, including Social Security benefits, nor is it intended as financial advice in any way.  The decision to claim benefits is a personal one that is contingent upon each individual’s unique circumstances. Nothing herein is considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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