Averting a global mental health crisis

I encourage each and everyone of us to look outside of the box, to strive for a better and more inclusive world and above all, to always be kind

Before the pandemic, 84 million people across the European Union were suffering from mental health challenges. This is indeed alarming, so much so that the European Commission has estimated that this costs the European Union more than €600 billion per year, or a little over 4% of the EU’s overall GDP. These figures are astounding enough as they are, let alone when we consider that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated conditions which create challenges to our overall mental health and wellbeing.

However, the road to addressing this issue is not a quick fix, or a one size fits all policy, as many would like us to think. Those in society with a conservative mindset seem to believe that the general mental health crisis Europe is currently faced with, can be solved by opening a few new clinics and throwing around a few new buzzwords. Those people are wrong.

In order to concretely and effectively tackle society’s mental health crises, we must start from scratch and ascertain that citizen’s mental health and wellbeing is the point of departure for all policies that we advocate for. We must ensure that we implement universal design in all that we do, all that we plan and all that we want to achieve. This is the only way we can contribute towards building a truly inclusive society, celebrating everyone, regardless of their origins, race, sexual orientation or creed. And it is through this inclusivity coupled with compassion, which can ensure that we move towards a society which fully takes into account our mental health and wellbeing as part of our holistic societal organisation.

I must say that we are lucky as Maltese citizens – we benefit from a number of aspects which better our mental health and wellbeing every day. When we are ill, we do not need to worry about how to pay for our treatments – thanks to a comprehensive social welfare scheme. And when we are unable to provide for our families due to the fact that we are unable to work, the Government will provide for us. We do not need to think about how to ensure our children can go to school- because schooling is available for all. This and many other factors have been taken care of by successive governments who see the value in ensuring strong social policies to hold up the fabric of our society.

But the advent of a global mental health crisis has required us to up our game. We need to think outside the box and look at new age solutions, for new age challenges. And while the pandemic has left a very negative impact on our world, it gives us a few silver linings: one of which is the ability to start from scratch and do things differently this time around.

Growing up in Malta under a conservative government, I always dreamed of a better Malta. The Malta that I wanted to live in, is a Malta of love: it is a Malta of happiness. Where each and every one of us can be who we are, and love who we want. Where our mental health and wellbeing is given as much priority as our physical wellbeing and where nature is an integral part of our society’s structure.

Growing up, I always dreamed of living in a country where our wealth as a nation also factors in our happiness into that calculation. And it is only in the recent years, under a government which shuns away conservative mentalities, that I have started to see that Malta foster. And we are indeed getting there – but we must go further.

This is because the Malta I want to live in is a place where the journey between where we are and where we want to be is characterised by happiness and enjoyment. I want to live in a country where the environment around us makes us want to be outside and amongst others- a place where the biggest trend is kindness towards ourselves, our friends, our families, and also strangers. Where ensuring that every living thing on this planet is nurtured and protected and where all governments preach, and live, the politics of kindness.

These are the real changes that need to be done to ensure we can overcome our next global pandemic - a mental health pandemic. And these are the real initiatives that must be put into place to ensure that we keep moving towards a better world, a world which we deserve.

So on this World Mental Health Day, I encourage each and every one of us to stop and think about how we can consider things differently. I encourage each and everyone of us to look outside of the box, to strive for a better and more inclusive world and above all, to always be kind.