In May we wrote about Mental Health Awareness Week and how it aimed to bring the whole of the UK together to focus on mental health, and in particular, to help tackle loneliness, a factor identified as affecting people’s mental health. In October, mental health becomes a global issue with the marking of World Mental Health Day, celebrated on October 10th each year.
The day was founded in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), an organisation that itself dates back to 1948. The WHO recognises and promotes the day which aims “to raise awareness in the global community about the critical mental health agendas”, and the WFMH aims to do this through collaboration with different partners and stakeholders to take actions that bring about lasting change. The theme of 2022’s World Mental Health Day, is “Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority”.
The last few years have taken their toll on the mental health of people all over the world. Firstly, it was the global pandemic which turned our entire world upside down, closing businesses, forbidding people to see loved ones and disrupting everything from education to weddings. Secondly, the growing concern about climate change and the recent extreme weather conditions have made people nervous about the future; and thirdly, the war in Ukraine has had a global impact, with the rising cost of living and the energy supply problems which have thrown the world into another crisis. It’s no wonder that mental health around the world is suffering.
According to the WFMH website:
- One billion people around the world have a mental health condition, and this includes millions of children and young people
- Over 80% of people with mental health disorders live in low- and middle-income countries
- Access to treatment is limited in many countries and there are still many inequalities in healthcare
- One estimate suggests that depression and anxiety can cost the global economy $1 trillion per year
The WHO is trying to tackle these problems and in June 2022, it published a report which provides a plan “for governments, academics, health professionals, civil society, and others with an ambition to support the world in transforming mental health”. It lays out the priorities and gives examples of good practice that all need to take to support our mental health and allow populations to thrive”.
One of the things the report highlights is how all stakeholders should work together to improve the mental health of the world, including how countries should strengthen the ties and relationships between healthcare and other aspects of the community, and World Mental Health Awareness Day is a time to come together to help make this happen. With this in mind, we have come up with some more unusual ways in which you can mark the day in your setting, apart from the normal things such as wear a ribbon, run and awareness day for parents and raise some money. All of these things are very valid and noble things to do, but how about trying something new too?
Different ideas to celebrate World Mental Health Day
- Create a world map and share it with the children or stick it on the wall – maybe get them to ask family and friends where they are from and mark them on the map so that you have represented as many different areas of the world as you can
- Get the children to draw a picture of things they think about or things that make them happy. Also ask what they think other people in other countries are concerned with and compare the answers
- Read some stories about children in other countries and highlight the differences between them and the children in your setting – things to think about can include:
c. Family setup
f. Availability of healthcare and medicine
- Have a circle time to encourage the children to talk about feelings and reiterate the importance of talking about things that worry the children
- Play some circle games to help the children learn about working together and helping each other. You could use some circle dances from around the world to link to the theme of world mental health and how we can all help each other
- Make a collage or mobile using green ribbons – the green ribbon is the symbol of mental health. You could make a cut-out photo/avatar or silhouette or each child and tie them to some green ribbons to make a mobile. On each child’s cut-out, get them to draw or stick a picture of something that makes them feel good. They can be people, places or objects – whatever the child associates with happiness and well-being
- Bake some cakes and decorate them with green icing or smiley faces to represent when people have good mental health – you could even sell them in a bake sale to raise money for your favourite mental health charity
- Send some good wishes to another early years setting that you currently know, or make some connections to new ones around the world. You could send some handprints to suggest friendship and togetherness, or anything else you think your chosen setting will appreciate
- Hold a world festival on World Mental Health Awareness Day and invite children to dress up in different costumes from around the world. You could also find some world songs on the internet to sing with the children on the day to represent you reaching out to others on World Mental Health Day
- Make a list of your local mental health charities and share it with your families to encourage a more open discussion on mental health and to provide them with information they, or people they know, may need
Whatever you do in your setting, remember to send us your stories and pictures to email@example.com.