World Mental Health Day 2016 Dignity in Mental Health – Psychological and Mental Health First Aid for All

Author: Gabriel Ivbijaro MBE President WFMH (World Federation for Mental Health), Chair of The World Dignity Project, Professor of Population Health & a Family Doctor. This blog is cross-posted with permission from the Huffington Post’s Contributor platform.

The 10th October, World Mental Health Day is fast approaching and I want to congratulate the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) for choosing this year’s theme ‘Dignity in mental health – psychological and mental health first aid for all.’(1) Many people have given their time and expertise to contribute to this year’s educational material particularly the WHO, the leadership of MHFA, the World Dignity Project, WPA (World Psychiatric Association), Wonca (World Organization of Family Doctors) and the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe.

This years theme highlights the continuing need to ensure health parity – ensuring that mental and physical health is treated equally. Mental Health First Aid training can provide us with the skills to deal with a mental health crisis wherever it happens in our everyday lives in the same way that First Aid provides us with the skills to deal with physical health crisis.

It is a misconception that helping in mental health crisis is a task only for specialists. We can all learn these skills. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is already being provided in many places worldwide. This needs to continue so that more people learn these skills which may be available in the country where you live. You can also contact WFMH ( who will be able to signpost you to training available in your area. If we are serious about health parity our challenge is to combine mental and physical health first aid training so that all first aiders feel confident to act in whatever situation they are faced with.

The years theme is also particularly relevant because it provides us with the skills for dealing with psychological distress in a disaster situation. The world is full of natural and man-made crisis and disaster which can result in short-term and long-term mental and psychological difficulties. One natural disaster is estimated to take place every day somewhere in the world (2). Providing psychological and mental health first aid can help those people affected to cope better. We as individuals, organisations and nations need to equip ourselves with the skills to enable us to make a difference to another person’s life when they are touched by crisis and disaster - we need to be prepared.

The Red Cross and the World Health Organisation provide free information about how to provide psychological first aid in a disaster on their websites. This information emphasizes the need to develop and promote coping skills to build individual and community resilience by using simple interventions to reduce distress and support the process of recovery, rehabilitation and well-being.

World Mental Health Day is not a one day event. Use this opportunity to find out more about psychological and mental health first aid. A good starting point is the educational material on the WFMH website.


1. Dignity in mental health – psychological and mental health first aid for all.

2. Guha-Sapir D, Hoyois P, Below R. Annual disaster statistical review 2014: the numbers and trends. Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) ( accessed 12.09.2016)

Professor Gabriel Ivbijaro MBE, JP


President WFMH (World Federation for Mental Health)

Chair The World Dignity Project


Tel: 020 8430 7715

Mobile: 07973 175955

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The Wood Street Medical Centre, 6 Linford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 3LA, UK

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