Event to help address under investment in mental health

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

World Health Organization
The Big Event for Mental Health will feature celebrities and activists sharing about their motivations for advocating for greater investment in mental health. PHOTO: ImageCollab

World leaders and internationally-recognized celebrities and mental health advocates will gather for the Big Event for Mental Health on World Mental Health Day on 10 October. The event organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) is an online advocacy event for mental health focusing on the need to address the world’s chronic under-investment in mental health, a problem thrown into the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dévora Kestel, director of WHO’s department of Mental Health and Substance Use, says close to 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, three million people die every year from harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds from suicide. She says billions of people around the world have also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic which is having a further impact on people’s mental health.

“The theme of the Big Event for Mental Health and World Mental Health Day this year is ‘Move for mental health: let’s invest aims to highlight actions that can be taken at all levels to increase investments in mental health’. At an individual level, this means taking personal action that supports one’s own mental health and that of friends, family and the community. At a national level, this means establishing or scaling up mental health services and at a global level, it means investing in global programmes to promote mental health,” says the director.

Kestel says health is a concern for all of us, yet for several decades, investment in mental health has fallen short of what is needed in every country of the world. She says COVID-19 has made clear the need to ensure our mental health services are robust enough to provide care through alternative means when visits to health centres are no longer possible, but we also need to provide support to greater numbers of people.

“The Big Event for Mental Health, which is free and open to the public, will be hosted by Femi Oke, an award-winning journalist and will feature performances and conversations with celebrities and activists about their motivations for advocating for greater investment in mental health. It will highlight that there is a way forward when there is a commitment to investment, and that such investment has positive benefits that go far beyond public health,” says the director.

Some celebrities and activists taking part in the event include:

· Cynthia Germanotta, the president and co-Founder (with her daughter Lady Gaga) of the Born This Way Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Mental Health

· Natália Loewe Becker: medical doctor and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Health Promotion

· Alisson Becker: goalkeeper for Liverpool Football Club and the Brazilian National Football Team and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Health Promotion

· Talinda Bennington: widow of Linkin Park lead vocalist Chester Bennington and founding partner of the mental health advocacy organization 320 Changes Direction

· Klas Bergling: father of DJ, musician and producer Tim “Avicii” Bergling and Co-founder of the Tim Bergling Foundation.

Leaders championing mental health in their own countries and organizations who will talk about the benefits of this commitment at The Big Event include:

· Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of the Belgians

· Epsy Campbell Barr, first vice-president of Costa Rica

· Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, the Netherlands

· Peter Sands: Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

The Big Event for Mental Health will include short films highlighting WHO and partner initiatives spanning countries from Jordan to Kenya, Paraguay, the Philippines and Ukraine that are improving mental health around the world. The films cover a range of mental health issues including self-help and stress management, adolescent mental health, mental health and health workers, suicide prevention and improving the quality of life of people with dementia and their carers.

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