Mental Health in an Unequal World: The theme of World Mental Health Day 2021


Inequality and mental health are interconnected. The factors that determine the quality of your mental health are related to the inequalities in our society. This means that some groups of people are at a far higher risk to experience poor mental health than others. At the same time, people with mental health issues experience stigma and discrimination. This affects not only their health, but also their educational opportunities, current and future earning and job prospects. The stigma and discrimination around mental health keeps the inequalities alive.

Factors that determine the quality of our mental health

There are many factors that play a role in our lives which influence our mental health. From growing up in an emotionally and physically safe environment, to experiencing abuse, discrimination or growing up in poverty. Some examples of how poor mental health affects different groups in society unequally:

  • People who identify as LGBT+ have higher rates of common mental health issues and lower well-being than heterosexual people.
  • Children from the poorest 20% of households are 4 times as likely to experience serious mental health difficulties by the age of 11, as those from the wealthiest 20%.
  • Men and women from African-Caribbean communities in the UK have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide risk.

Access to mental health care

In the report Mental Health in an Unequal World: Together we can make a difference, Dévora Kestel raises awareness on the unequal access to mental health care:

Across the world, far too few people have access to quality mental health services. In high-income countries, nearly 75% of people with depression report not receiving adequate care. In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental health conditions receive no treatment at all for their condition. Despite these inequalities, governments spend on average just over 2% of their health budgets on mental health and international development assistance for mental health has never exceeded 1% of development assistance for health. — Dévora Kestel, Director, Mental Health and Substance Use World Health Organization 

So.. what can you do?

The facts about mental health and inequality do not sound very hopeful. Still, there are reasons to stay hopeful. Momentum is growing internationally to emphasize mental health and governments around the world have recognized that access to these services must be scaled up at all levels.

Each of us has the power to make a change if we want to and together we can make that change happen. You might not have direct influence on the budget that governments spend on mental health (unless you are the Prime Minister, then please increase the budget for mental health!). But you certainly can make an impact by discussing the topic of making mental health in your workplace, with friends or family. Do you notice that you have prejudices around people with mental health difficulties? Don’t judge yourself. It’s not weird to have these thoughts, as they are created by the world around us. When you are aware of your own prejudices, you can try to actively change them.

As an employer, make sure that mental health and the stigma around it is discussed in your company. Bringing these topics to light is the first step in making a change. In the end, we all have mental health.

Inuka is on a mission to make effective wellbeing support accessible to everyone. We make top-quality coaching scalable with our digital coaching innovation. Another way in which we make accessible mental health a reality, is through the Inuka Foundation, that provides Inuka’s services for free to the most vulnerable, currently in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Reach out here if you are interested to learn more.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


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