Mental Health and Well-Being as Global Priority for All

World Mental Health Day (10 October) is an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries. This day, each October, thousands of supporters come to celebrate this annual awareness program to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on people's lives worldwide (photo: iStock by Getty Images).

An individual’s mental health is as important as his or her physical health. It is accounted for by the presence of good levels of behavioral, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The state of an individual’s mental health has bearing on his or her relationship with own self and other people.

The importance of mental health has received good attention from various parties as many have started to realize that although it is an individual experience, it is not something that society can ignore. In fact, the importance of attaining well-being in life is the main purpose of the teachings of Islam for they contain guidelines for humans to form harmonious relationship with oneself, other people, environment, and the Creator.

An individual’s mental health condition could be associated with various factors. Firstly, it could be due to certain personal circumstances, like challenging life demands which cause emotional stress, fatigue or depression. Such experience could bring about negative impacts on oneself, the family, and even the community.

Secondly, an individual’s mental health state could be due to an individual’s level of personal competencies (e.g knowledge, skills, attitude and personality) to deal with certain challenging situations or demands. A person with a sound set of personal competencies may have higher level of abilities to deal with problems or problematic people.

Thirdly, mental health could be affected by the negative surrounding conditions, such as the changing nature of the world of work. Changes in job structure could cause a gap between one’s job competencies and job demand or expectations, leading to poor quality of work and in turn, low job satisfaction. If it is not being accordingly managed, it may lead to mental health deterioration. The recent COVID19 pandemic, for instance, has exacerbated the existing uncertainties and hardship encountered by many individuals in the community. The closure of social institutions has caused individuals to be disconnected from their social networks, resulting in certain negative effects to some people.

Fourthly, the exposure to huge information from social media platforms, prolonged screen interaction, or reduced physical activities have also brought effects to mental health state amongst some individuals.

There is also a relationship between economic conditions and individuals’ mental health conditions. Many reported having challenges in earning a living during economic downturn, or experiencing difficulties in their jobs. Losses in business lead to many negative consequences and cause long-lasting psychological effects, such as post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. The increase in the price of goods and service fees have caused difficulties among many to have ends met and, in effect, disrupt their well-being.

Initiatives to deal with mental health problems should be substantiated by putting in place specific programs to develop understanding on the importance of mental health. In promoting good mental health in the community, information on the importance of mental health; and the availability of support services for people living with mental health issues should be communicated to the public. There should be effective provision of psychosocial support systems for various target groups at workplaces, educational institutions, or houses of worship.

In conjunction with the World Mental Health, it is hoped that various parties such as educational institutions, employment organizations and communities could continue taking necessary measures to help individuals dealing with mental health issues they encounter in life.

The awareness on the importance of mental health has to be further enhanced so that each individual in the society is able to attain well-being in life. Mental health service provision needs to be increased so as to empower individuals with good readiness in dealing with any changes and challenges in life. The role of mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors is important to create a good level of mental health in the family, necessitating more professionals be trained.

There should be a set of planned efforts to empower individuals and communities to persevere in life despite adversity they encounter. It is hence essential to provide an ecosystem that is conducive to fostering a good level of mental health across various settings, and to reduce the causes of poor mental health conditions. Indeed, mental health and well-being should become a global priority for all.

Shukran Abdul Rahman is a professor at Department of Psychology, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).  He is the Editor of IIUM Journal of Human Services and the Dean of Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences at IIUM.

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