Invisible communities: Speak up, share and mental health in an unequal world 

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If we are in the privileged position to connect with seldom-heard communities, let’s actively hear their stories and support better mental health in an unequal world.

Mental Health campaigner Sophie Mei Lan (me), the editor of, writes with this year’s World Mental Health Day in Mind…

Elderly people, adults with learning disabilities, and asylum seekers are some of the most seldom-heard ‘invisible’ communities where I live and nationwide. So it’s important that not only do we acknowledge them but ensure their voice is heard too.

I am acutely aware of the need to platform a range of voices after being brought up in an impoverished part of Yorkshire where our community richness shined through in the tapestry of people which made up our neighbourhood. We shopped for food, created communities, and forged relationships over our shared feeling of inequalities – most of the time this cultivated wonderful cuisine at community festivals, support for one another seeking support, and an array of shops.

Just like the grubby exterior of the retail offering which had been ‘forgotten’ and neglected from the funding in more affluent areas where inside you could discover some of the most unique goods and incredible people, this served as a metaphor for so many forgotten communities.

While the shops looked run-down and abandoned, in many ways we had all felt this inadequacy in an unequal world, where you only needed to head a mile towards the other side of the city to see a very different picture.

At times such inequalities even led to people pitching against one another when they faced a ‘divide and rule’ leader through fear, lack of healthcare, and isolation.

The impact of such isolation is felt by many ‘invisible’ communities, leading to unemployment, further ill health, and forgotten voices.

Mental Health itself is a silent isolating pandemic not to mention experiencing mental health problems when living in such an unequal world.

So if we are in the luxurious place of being heard, it’s important we act to support such hearty humans becoming more visible as well as appreciating what such diversity offers. Hearing powerful stories helps us all to learn about history, cultures and connecting us all as one community we can learn so much from one another and share skills.

From tea dancing and folk dance to creative crafts and a plethora of talent.

I witnessed glimpses of this wonderful world over the past week which has involved delivering digital journalism workshops to adults with disabilities, one of whom was preparing to adorn a sandwich board at that night’s ArtWalk event with signs declaring who they are as a community and human beings. I then finished the week teaching a special Yoga session to adults with learning disabilities, warming them up for their physical theatre performance inside The Ridings Shopping Centre on a busy Saturday when it is full of shoppers. That night I attended Wakefield Community Foundation’s Unsung Hero Awards showcasing such voices of inspiration, those who served others even in a period of hardship. Then at the weekend I took the kids to Wakefield Cathedral for Messy Crafts where we were given the most abundant welcome by volunteers who had their own experiences of isolation such as the unwelcoming experience of seeking Asylum and now helping other refugees while generously giving their time, skills and care to many families including ours through free crafts, stories, and food too.

Sunday marked a national day for older people with Silver Sunday where I witnessed the power of intergenerational communities. Not only was it more important than ever to showcase our support for older people in such a time of enforced isolation but to share song, dance, Sunday Dinner, and browse craft stalls. The shopping centre chimed to the music of Alzheimer’s UK dementia-friendly choir, dancing together and to the musicians aligning the shopping area, mindfulness crafts for mental health, and an old-school Sunday Dinner from Ruby Lous’ traditional looking pub, another lost community in many areas is pubs and clubs. But to showcase where older met younger, we finished off our roast with insta-friendly waffles from a Belgian grandma’s ‘secret recipe.’

As we devoured the waffles amongst the cozy pub and grub offering, we chatted to staff and fellow punters as the clan of kids I was looking after from fellow single parents showed them how they create TikTok videos.

The girls were so impressed too by the antique shops and the ‘cool stuff’ they even made TikToks in there, without subtlety realising they were learning about history and the generations that made us.

Now the volume is turned down, the events have finished and now it’s important to continue and recognise World Mental Health Day which this year is poignantly themed on Mental Health in an Unequal World, which means limited accessibility for communities who vitally need it. This can lead to further isolating issues such as addictions, debt, unemployment, and further ill health.

Not only is mental health an invisible disability and ‘Cinderella service’ when it comes to funding but more issues are faced by many of our wonderful communities who already have been isolated.

All is not lost, however, because we have the power of shared knowledge of how to recognise and understand the need to seek support for people. Not to mention the community groups who work hard, often made up of people from similar backgrounds, to help others.

If we are in a privileged position to speak up, I urge you too not just to promote one special day but to demand better funding, services and ensuring we welcome one another with open minds and hearts. This is the human spirit.

What is World Mental Health Day 2021 and what is the theme?

World Mental Health Day 2021 is on Sunday 10th October 2021. The theme this year is “Mental Health in an Unequal World”.

What does Mental Health in an UnEqual World mean? 

The wealthier are still becoming wealthier and the poorer are still becoming poorer. It also means that there’s an inequality due to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender as 2020 highlighted.  Between 75% to 95% of people with mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries are unable to access mental health services at all, and access in high-income countries is not much better. Lack of investment in mental health disproportionate to the overall health budget contributes to the mental health treatment gap.

Many people with a mental illness do not receive the treatment that they are entitled to and deserve and together with their families and carers continue to experience stigma and discrimination. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ grows ever wider and there is continuing unmet need in the care of people with a mental health problem.

Accessibility reporter Dan from thoughts on Mental Health: You never know what’s going on inside another person’s head so be kind to them and ask them if they’re OK and if they’re not, ask them what you can do to help them.

If you’re in good mental health, you can:

·     Make the most of your potential

·     Cope with life

·     Play a full part in your family, workplace, community, and other friends.

A few stats about Mental Health:

Anxiety affects 284 million people in the world.

Depression affects 264 million people.

Alcohol use disorder affects 107 million people.

Drug use disorder affects 71 million people.

Bipolar disorder affects 46 million people.

Schizophrenia affects 20 million people.

Eating disorders affect 16 million people


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