Throw off the mask!
This Saturday, the annual World Mental Health Day was marked with a parade in downtown Oslo. Meanwhile, many students struggle with mental health problems, and the demand at SiO Health is great.
World Mental Health Day is an educational campaign that aims to raise public awareness about mental health. This year focused on showing that it is allowed to have a «scratched surface,» and that nobody is perfect in today's success- and achievement oriented society. In Oslo, the day was marked with a mask parade that went from Slottsplassen to Youngstorget. About thirty people showed up to walk the parade. These were encouraged to «see each other» and «throw off the mask» through slogans and banners. Despite a low turnout, the atmosphere in the parade was good.
Mental disorders prevalent
Students' Health and Well-being Survey (SHot 2014) shows that 21 percent of all students at the Studentskipnad in Oslo and Akershus (SiO) suffer from mental problems.
Meanwhile, figures from the Public Health Institute (Folkehelseinstituttet) shows that about half of us will experience mental health problems during our lives.
– Most are struggling with depression, anxiety, problems related to performance or eating disorders. Students often have several problems, which tend to be related. Many people go to therapy at SiO Health, but some have such severe problems that they have to be referred to other specialists, she says.
Currently, the waiting time for therapy at SiO long.
Maren Moen works at Fontenehuset, a working community for people who have or have had a mental illness. She has been involved in planning the mask parade.
– The aim of the parade was to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health problems. Everyone has a mental health. We wanted simply to get people to shed the mask and see each other. That was also the parade's message, she says.
Twelve years tradition in Norway
The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) decided in 1992 to create a day to promote awareness of mental health across the world. Since 2003, Mental Health Norway has coordinated the work with World Day on October 10th, commissioned by the Norwegian Directorate of Health.
– A clear need
Odd-Arne Eriksen, advisor for Link Oslo – centre for self-help and management, says that he does not have statistics on how many students who make use of the free services at Link Oslo, but that most of them are under 30 years, the typical student age.
Seven out of ten in Oslo visited their general practitioner in 2014. Ten percent of these inquiries dealt with mental disorders, says Eriksen. He believes this clearly shows a need for psychological help, although he points out that many people experience transient mental disorders.
– Students can struggle during exam period. The situation can often worsen if they simultaneously find themselves in a bad situation, he says.