What is World Mental Health Day?
World Mental Health Day takes place on 10 October every year and is a global event that aims to help reduce stigma, increase understanding of mental health conditions, and promote action.
World Mental Health Day is an international, annual event that aims to raise awareness about poor mental health, reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions, and encourage open conversations about what more can be done to care for and support mental health around the world.
Founded by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and first celebrated in 1992, World Mental Health Day takes place on 10 October every year. Since its launch 31 years ago, World Mental Health Day has become a recognised platform for individuals, organisations, and even governments to develop initiatives that focus on mental health care.
Organisations around the world use the day to run activities and events, and share educational resources to encourage understanding and support those affected by mental health issues.
Each year, the WFMH chooses a specific theme to focus on, allowing for a more in-depth exploration of particular aspects of mental health. Previous themes include women and mental health, mental health in the workplace, the relationship between physical and mental health, and mental health in an unequal world.
But, no matter what the theme is, the ultimate goal remains the same: to create a more inclusive and supportive society in which the importance of mental health and wellbeing for all individuals is recognised — and celebrated.
Reasons to celebrate World Mental Health Day
Celebrating World Mental Health Day is a great way to make your employees feel psychologically safe and cared for, which increases team cohesion and effectiveness. It also helps bring about change at a wider societal level: if every company helps to reduce the stigma, then we start to see change on a national level.
Mental health at work has been under the spotlight for a while now, and rightly so: one in six people experience mental health problems in the workplace.
Celebrating and taking part in initiatives like World Mental Health Day offer an important opportunity to support your team’s mental wellbeing by:
- Raising awareness: without adequate awareness of mental health issues in the workplace, it can be hard for those struggling to speak out and seek help. It’s also harder for people to spot poor mental health in others if awareness is low. Why is this a problem? Because this encourages those suffering with poor mental health to continue suffering in silence rather than to seek support. Taking part in World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of mental health in your workplace.
- Reducing stigma: all too often, mental health conditions are sadly stigmatised in our society. This means that people suffering can be afraid of the judgement of others, which again makes it less likely for them to share what they’re going through and get the help they need. World Mental Health Day can help to reduce stigma by showing that mental health conditions are surprisingly common.
- Improving team effectiveness: poor mental health can affect a person's ability to feel good about work and be productive. By encouraging people to share their struggles and seek support when necessary, it can help them to regain their concentration and focus as well. World Mental Health Day could be a useful way to remind your team of the mental health support already in place and how to use it.
- Creating a psychologically safe culture: many employees want to work in a company that supports them and feels safe and open. Lots of research on psychological safety shows just how important this is to team cohesion and effectiveness. One of the key elements of psychological safety is feeling held and able to take interpersonal risks: in other words, acting out of love rather than fear. Demonstrating vulnerability and acceptance, such as by raising awareness of mental health at work, is a great way to hardwire psychological safety into your company’s culture. We’ve shared a few of our popular resources about psychological safety at the bottom of the page.
Mental health is a universal human right
The official theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day on 10 October is ‘mental health is a universal human right’.
Set by the WFMH, this year’s theme is an opportunity for people and communities to unite and improve knowledge, raise awareness, and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health.
Everyone, whoever and wherever they are, has the right to positive mental wellbeing. And that means they have the right to be protected from mental health risks, the right to accessible and quality care, and the right to inclusion in their communities.
Feeling secure and cared for mentally is essential to overall health and wellbeing. And yet the facts and figures coming from charities, governments, and other organisations regularly tell a very different story.
In addition to the one in six people experiencing mental health challenges at work, workplace stress levels have climbed to a record high, burnout is spreading through the ranks, and more sick days are being taken for mental health than anything else. Clearly, the workforce isn’t getting the support it needs.
Mental health challenges have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to work but clearly, the workforce isn’t getting the support it needs. No one’s livelihood should suffer for lack of support, understanding, or awareness of mental health issues, which is why this year’s theme is so important: your workers have a universal human right to mental health and as their employer, you can help make that happen.
World Mental Health Day ideas for employers
Whatever you have time for on World Mental Health Day, here are a few ideas for relatively easy-to-arrange initiatives to encourage your team to engage with their universal right to mental health:
- Arrange sharing sessions in your company: create an in-person or virtual space for employees to (optionally) come together and share stories of their experiences with poor mental health, whether it’s in a wider group or in smaller breakout rooms. We suggest giving the discussions a bit more focus by providing themed topics, whether that’s anxiety, work-life balance, imposter syndrome, or stress.
- Turn all meetings on 10 October into ‘mindful meetings’: start all meetings with a five-minute group meditation, using an audio recording from YouTube or Insight Timer (a free app). It’s a time for everyone to take a step back, reflect, and get into the moment before diving into another work discussion.
- Randomly schedule ‘Get outside for a walk’ into people’s diaries: surprise your team with individual invites to leave their desk and go outside for a walk. Ask people to share photos of their walks on company communications channels.
- Fundraise for a mental health charity: ask the team if there’s a particular mental health charity close to their heart, or get people to vote for their favourite. Then organise charity events, such as a bake sale, a sponsored run, or auction, to support mental health organisations doing great work to reduce stigma and improve access to support.
- Share useful resources with your team: these could be quotes, statistics, infographics, articles, videos or webinar recordings about relevant mental-health-related topics. As a mental health company ourselves, we’ve got a bunch of resources (many of which are written by, or reviewed by, Spill therapists) that could be worth sharing with your team.
- Write team ‘user manuals’: a great exercise to get your team thinking about how to work well together, individual user manuals are designed to help people understand differences in working styles within their team. Did you know Dave hates it when you chase him over Slack, but Diana finds it super useful? Your manual might be easier to fill in with multiple choice answers, but it’s always good to give people a little space to explain, too.
- Launch new initiatives: if you’re about to launch new employee wellbeing initiatives, consider saving them for World Mental Health Day. Introducing a mental health or employee wellbeing benefit when there’s context and other activities going on not only helps spread the word but also lodges it in people’s minds.
- Demo your company’s mental health support: use World Mental Health Day to remind your team of the support already in place at your company. Hold a Q&A session, see if anyone would be happy to share their experience of using the support, or hold demo sessions to show people how to access and use the systems in place.
- Schedule non-work focused one-to-ones: one-to-ones are commonplace between managers and their reports, but consider devoting World Mental Health Day to a more personal catch-up. Rather than talk about work and deadlines, encourage managers to schedule in some time to find out how their reports are doing emotionally.
- Join the worldwide conversation: if your company is on social media, consider sharing your plans for the day using #WorldMentalHealthDay. Not only will you be showing your support, but you’ll be adding your voice to the global conversation — and that’s how change really happens.
Mental Health Awareness Week resources to share with your team
Employee wellbeing resources:
- The 5 pillars of wellbeing at work
- 51 initiatives to improve employee wellbeing at work in 2023
- Create your own employee wellbeing survey
- How to do a stress at work risk assessment
Psychological safety resources:
- The four stages of psychological safety
- 20 ways for leaders to create psychological safety at work
- How to measure psychological safety at work
- 10 psychological safety exercises for building a stronger team
Workplace mental health facts and figures:
- 53 workplace mental health statistics
- 61 important anxiety facts and figures
- 70 workplace stress statistics
- 64 workplace burnout statistics
Q&A with Spill therapists:
- How can I manage my anxiety better using 'coping' or 'grounding' techniques?
- How can I help an employee who's taking on too much work and struggling to cope?
- How can I raise awareness of depression in my company and overcome stigma?
- How can I avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed about how much work I have?
- I've recently been promoted, how can I stop feeling out of my depth?
- How should I handle an employee being signed off work for mental health?
- How should I handle conversations about mental health with staff on video calls?
- How can I balance supporting my colleague while protecting my own mental health?
Mental health webinar recordings:
- ‘How to build strong mental health when life makes it difficult’ (50min)
- ‘How to (actually) switch off from work’ (48min)
- ‘How to beat burnout — even when working long hours’ (44min)
- ‘How to break out of a procrastination and low-productivity rut’ (32min)
- ‘How to overcome imposter syndrome and self doubt’ (41min)
- ’How sleep and mental health are linked, and how to sleep better’ (33min)
- How to be more assertive' (42 mins)
- ’How to feel more connected while working remotely’ (45 mins)
Mental health awareness images and graphics: