Every year, on October 10, The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) encourages us all to consider mental health, and asks us to focus on various aspects of mental health education and awareness through their World Mental Health Day. This years’ theme is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World.’
Everybody has mental health, whether it is good or bad, just as we all have physical health. And you can develop a mental health problem no matter what your background. We, unfortunately, live in an incredibly unequal world, with rich people getting richer and poor people getting poorer due to the disproportionate distribution of wealth.
It is not necessarily linked to the developing countries of the South and the developed countries of the North. Every country experiences some elements of inequality, and this has only risen with the recent global pandemic, with many countries reporting significant social and economic impacts influenced by capitalist societies.
Inequality is the uneven distribution of resources given to different groups in society. Countless reports and statistics show inequalities are linked to poverty, life expectancy, unemployment, mortality, and morbidity rates. The Centre for Mental Health has collected some interesting facts that demonstrate the severity of inequality and an unequal world has on communities:
- Children are seemingly three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems if they have a disability
- Compared to males, females are ten times more likely to experience physical and sexual abuse
- African-Caribbean communities have a higher suicide rate
- The LGBT+ community are drastically more likely to experience mental health problems compared to the heterosexual community
- Children from the poorest communities are four times as likely to experience serious mental health issues
How does inequality affect our mental health?
Inequality can profoundly affect our mental health due to the disadvantages we face, whether we are born into an unequal world or face inequalities due to personal factors. But what inequalities can influence our mental health?
Economic influences – People who experience poverty or financial hardship suffer from crippling stress, anxiety and social problems. Employment provides social status, income and self-esteem but unemployment, job losses or unfulfilled working potential causes depression and stress-related mental health problems. Financial difficulties are closely linked to education as successful people are more likely to secure employment. Educational inequalities are evident at a young age when children are not adequately prepared to overcome communication, social and emotional challenges experienced during their early years, causing a long-standing impact on future opportunities.
Social relationships – Positive relationships fostered at a young age are beneficial to a person’s mental health, so it’s no surprise that negative social relationships that expose people to issues linked to discrimination due to sexual orientation, race or gender have the opposite effect. People who identify as part of a particular minority group are significantly more likely to be exposed to discrimination and inequalities leading to mental health problems.
Health, disability and aging – Physical health and mental health are inherently linked; people with physical health problems suffer from mental health problems and vice versa. People who experience long-standing physical and mental health problems face a lower quality of life with fewer improvements in their conditions and have an increased likelihood of dying younger.
Ecological influences – People born into or who live in inadequate environments are negatively affected. Mental health issues can be exacerbated when faced with problems linked to housing, neighbourhoods and environments. Safe and secure housing is needed for positive mental wellbeing.
Supporting Equality in the Workplace
Employers are responsible for ensuring that their workplace supports equality and prevents discrimination or harassment towards their employees. It can do this by setting out clear policies detailing how it will address inequalities its staff may face. Policies should consider;
- Recruitment – the language used in job descriptions should not discourage specific demographics from applying for a position. Diversity and equality of opportunity should be central to your recruitment process – find out more about our training ‘Taking the guesswork out of recruitment’.
- Environment – employees should feel psychologically safe in their working environment, with the right to voice their opinions and raise concerns with confidence that they will be acted on appropriately.
- Education – a lot can be achieved by raising awareness. All staff should understand the impact their behaviour can have on others, regardless of their intention. Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training raises awareness of bias and encourages people to be more considerate with the language and behaviour they use.
- Celebration – workforces are a diverse arena, and the uniqueness of all your people should be celebrated to encourage strong collaboration.
- Clear position – employers should make their position regarding equality clear to their staff members and the external community. By promoting a culture based on equality, there should be no misunderstandings concerning acceptable behaviour.
To discuss any issues faced in your organisation relating to mental health, equality or management skills please call today on 07880 776756 or email today