World Mental Health Day has been held annually on October 10 since 1992. This day, dedicated to mental health education and advocacy, began as an initiative of the World Federation of Mental Health under the leadership of Deputy Secretary General Richard Hunter. Today, this cause is supported by the World Health Organization and numerous ministries of health and other organizations around the world.
World Mental Health Day truly has global influence.
World Mental Health Day had humble beginnings, with the primary activity of the first several years being a two-hour telecast; however, feedback on these broadcasts quickly poured in from viewers in the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Europe. In 1995, with the assistance of the Pan American Health Organization, materials regarding World Mental Health Day were translated into Spanish. Since then, publications have been translated into French, Hindi, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic.
In the 26-year history of World Mental Health Day, the development of themes to guide the focus of the annual campaigns have been highly effective in generating active participation in this day of awareness and advocacy from dozens of countries around the world. These themes have included the mental health of women (1996) and children (1997), aging (1999), the effects of trauma and violence (2002), diversity (2007), depression (2012), and living with schizophrenia (2014).
The theme for 2019 is Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention.
Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. Globally, this is now the second leading cause of death among individuals age 15 to 29, exceeding deaths attributable to war and homicide combined. This year’s theme is particularly relevant to law students and lawyers, as both groups experience depression and suicidal ideation at rates that are disproportionately more prevalent than what is observed in the general population. As a profession, we seem to be aware of the problem. Suicide among law students and lawyers has been in the headlines again, and again, and again, and again.
What is less well-known is the 2017 report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, entitled The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change. The recommendations made by the Task Force are described as “concrete” and “actionable.” Moreover, the report is conveniently organized by stakeholder so that readers can efficiently identify what is most applicable to their role within the legal profession. This invaluable resource could definitely be put to greater use. We are at the threshold where mere awareness is not sufficient. We need to see action to make the practice of law a field in which people can thrive, rather than one in which they must fight to survive.
Use your resources and get involved.
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the United States Department of Health and Human Services offers an array of resources to help individuals locate the services they need, including a suicide prevention hotline, a 24-hour treatment referral routing service, crisis counseling related to natural or human caused disasters, and a dedicated crisis line for veterans.
Many of these services are now available by phone, online chat, text, and TTY.
In an emergency, call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency room.