Two years of social distancing, unrest and uncertainty has taken its toll on our mental health. The challenges ahead are still unknown, but what we know for sure is that we will need each other to get through it.

Loneliness and social exclusion are key public health challenges in Norway. 11 per cent of the Norwegian population suffers from loneliness, according to 2020 figures from Statistics Norway. Every fourth young person says they have no one to talk to about their problems. For vulnerable and marginalised groups, the numbers are far worse.

This is why this year’s theme for the Norwegian World Mental Health is ‘We need each other. Look up!’

The cost of exclusion

History shows that large national or global crises can strengthen our sense of community and help us connect with each other. We also know that crises can contribute to greater division and unrest. Fear of the unknown can make us more narrow-minded than we usually are, which can fuel prejudices and discrimination. As a result, more people than ever fall through the cracks.

In this year’s campaign, we want to motivate initiatives that bridge gaps. We all have a fundamental need to belong and be part of a community. But it isn’t easy to feel a sense of belonging in a community that doesn’t recognise, understand or accept true diversity.

We need each other. Look up!

Porsgrunn videregående skole.  Photo: Maria Terzan

Inclusive social arenas

86,000 people in Norway experience serious bullying at work at least once a month, and anxiety and depression are among the leading causes of sick leave. The workplace is also one of our most important arenas for promoting mental health.

This year, we encourage initiatives that connect diverse groups of people with each other in a meaningful way. We need more opportunities to meet across generations, cultures, personalities, opinions and experiences. It not only helps to expand our views on each other, but it is an important contribution to prevent stigma, loneliness and social exclusion.

Common goals create community

We hope that this year’s campaign contributes to building new social arenas, but also that it can help make our key social arenas better: more inclusive, accessible and meaningful for a greater variety of people.

Meeting points will always be the pulse of a society. But they can also be divisive and reinforce the feeling of being an outsider.

After two years of social distancing, it is time to look up from our cohorts. People need people, and we need more opportunities to meet in a meaningful way. We can’t predict what the future brings. But we do know that we will need each other on the way.

To quote our volunteer, Remi André Olsen, from Mental Helse Øksnes, “after all, it’s quite difficult, and sometimes even dangerous, to be a human all by yourself”.

We need each other. Look up!

Ambulansetjenesten Vestre Viken. Photo:Verdensdagen For Psykisk Helse

The Norwegian public health campaign for World Mental Health Day 10 October is run by Mental Helse, on behalf of the Norwegian Directorate of Health. Last year more than 3,100 companies, schools, municipalities and organisations across the country contributed to the campaign by creating events and initiatives to promote mental health awareness.

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