There is no shortage of calamities that can wreak havoc on our mental health and well-being. A global pandemic in its third year, protracted conflicts and wars, destructive climate events, destabilizing economic conditions, violence, discrimination, injustice, inequality. No nation is immune. This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is “Make mental health for all a global priority.”
Misunderstood, stigmatized and often left untreated, mental health has become a crisis. In the first year of Covid-19, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25 per cent, with young people and women – two populations UNFPA serves – affected the most. Mental health and physical health are connected, and emotional ills like anxiety and depression can diminish a person’s quality of life as well as the lives of those around them.
The day calls for committing to acknowledge the importance of mental health, be more open and accepting about it and prioritize availability of and access to care and treatment.
In our work, we see women and girls who know mental trauma, having survived gender-based violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, obstetric fistula and online abuse. Other issues worsen women’s mental health, including unpaid labour, most of which is shouldered by women. The 2022 State of World Population focused on unintended pregnancy and reported that it “is often a causal factor in depression and worsened psychological well-being.” Also, research “found that women who had become pregnant unintentionally were at a significantly higher risk of developing postpartum depression than women who had become pregnant by choice.”
Advancing gender equality, ending gender-based violence and harmful practices, eliminating traumatic birth injuries like fistula, providing comprehensive sexuality education and voluntary family planning services to address unintended pregnancy – all contribute to the human right of health of body and mind, not to mention a safer and more just world.