“At the root of this dilemma, is the way we view mental health […]. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.” – Michelle Obama

World Mental Health Day was celebrated last week on October 10, 2018. This year, the theme for WMHD was ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’.

The Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, is a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change in their communities, has launched an international campaign to share our mental health stories and show our support of making mental health care a reality for everyone worldwide. Watch the stories at http://bit.ly/shapersmentalhealth.

It is especially relevant and fitting that this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to dedicate WMHD to young people. Worldwide, 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders (WHO, 2013). The WHO reports that half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14 and that that prevention starts with a better understanding of the early warning signs of the illness. Alex, a young man from Munich, Germany tells us that he has “learnt to cope with [his] illness, to regulate [his] feelings and emotions and to recognise the signals, the early signs, the warning signs.” Like Alex, young people must break from the shackles of taboo and stigma surrounding mental health and seek professional help. Indeed, if mental disorders are “untreated, they extend into adult life, affecting education, employment, relationships and even parenting” (Dua, 2018).

The WHO’s Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, consists of 4 principle objectives, which is to strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health; provide comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health in community-based settings; implement strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health; and strengthen information systems and research for mental health.

Many member states have been successfully implementing mental care health programmes since 2013, but some countries, including Mauritius, lag behind when it comes to breaking the stereotypes, stigma, and inequalities associated with mental health. What is needed is more political will to make mental health a top priority among policy-makers in the health care sector. We all need to realise that mental health is just as important as   physical health!

As we wrapped up the Global Shapers Community Global Campaign for Mental Health, one of our shapers, Frankie Fredericks, the current Curator of the New York II Hub, gave a honest, brutal but beautiful testimony about his fight with mental health:“Depression is the great nothingness that swallows your soul. But, I can, I will and I must push on through!” If Frankie did it, so can you!

Another contributor to our Global Mental Health Campaign was a young person from Ghana, who said that her coping tools against depression include a long, soothing hot bath or laughter therapy. Each person copes differently with mental health illness, and the trick is to find strategies, which work, with the help of your carers, as well as your therapist. Talking about their illness is for many, the first step towards the healing process.

The Global Shapers – Port Louis Hub is talking about Mental Health, and we are inviting you to share your stories and tips to help break the taboo around mental health, whether you are coping or are a mental health professional. Sharing is caring. Reach out to us on [email protected], as well as on social media, and together let’s #SanzMental-ité.

Next month,the Global Shapers – Port Louis Hub will be launching its Talk Series entitled ‘Zeness, Sanz To Mental-ité’, for students from tertiary education institutions across the island. The first event will be held at the University of Mauritius during the first week of November 2018. The aim of the talk series is to raise awareness among the youth regarding the need to take care of their mental health, to seek help if they think they are suffering from a mental health condition and also direct them to the proper avenues for treatment and therapy.

The Curator from the Global Shapers – Port Louis Hub, has a few words for those struggling with mental health illness:“Speak out about it, don’t be shy. Don’t be scared about what the world thinks. Give yourself time. We are all human.”

You are not alone. If you are seeking help, help is available at: