World Mental Health Day 2021: Support and Services in Kent Posted on 29 September 2021 by Amber Gravenell in Wellbeing The 10th October is World Mental Health Day; an annual event which raises awareness of mental health issues and strives to maintain and increase efforts for supporting mental health. The theme for #WorldMentalHealthDay2021 is ‘Mental health in an unequal world’. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt around the world. It has severely impacted mental health and has caused disruption and delays across all health services. However, recently the inequalities in health care have been widely reported and publicised, taking the centre stage. This covers all areas of health, not just mental health. The NHS published a report pronouncing entitled ‘…action required to tackle health inequalities in latest phase of COVID-19 response and recovery.’ The full report is available to read on the NHS website. The inequality that is prevalent in the health care system around the world is understandably a concern for health organisations and a priority. Therefore, it makes sense that World Mental Health Day is focused on the theme of mental health in an unequal world. Inequalities in health are prevalent in countries around the world, including the United Kingdom. Statistics in the UK• Between 2017 to 2019 it was found that the difference in life expectancy between the least and most deprived parts of England was 9.4 years for males and 7.6 years for females. This gap has remained consistent for males but there was a small increase found for females from 2014 to 2016. (Office for National Statistics)• The College of Optometrists revealed huge inequalities in eye health for different groups in the UK. People in deprived socioeconomic groups and certain ethnic groups were found to be more likely to lose their eyesight and less likely to attend an eye health service, even if they were easily accessible. (The College of Optometrists)• The College of Optometrists also found that uncorrected refractive error can significantly impact quality of life, negatively affect education and increase the likelihood of falls. The likelihood of URE increases if you live in a deprived population.• Households in the lowest 20% income bracket in GB are 2-3x more likely to experience mental health problems than those in the highest income bracket (The Mental Health Foundation).• Additionally, recipients of housing benefit are more than twice as likely to experience a common mental health problem than those not receiving it.The above statistics reinforce the scale of health inequality; it is an issue that must be tackled. Free Health Services in KentWe have collated a list of free health services; some are based in Kent and others, such as Samaritans, are on a national level. Everyone should have equal access to healthcare and there are a variety of organisations committed to educating, supporting and providing access to healthcare for everyone, particularly those with limitations or whom require support.Free Eye Tests and Payment SupportTaking care of our eyes should be an absolute priority; after all, we rely on our sight every day. But, many people do not attend regular eye tests or leave eye conditions and worsening sight untreated. A factor that might prevent someone from consulting with an optician is financial worries and not feeling able to afford eyecare. The NHS website contains a list of free eye test providers and advice on seeking financial support for eye care. Food BanksA balanced diet and having enough food to eat is essential for our bodies to function. For children, in particular, food is required for growth and development and allows them to concentrate in school. Putting food on the table can be a worry for many. All around the United Kingdom, there are food banks schemes in placed to ensure everybody has enough to eat. There are local council food banks as well as food banks within supermarkets, such as Morrisons.Kent Food BanksMedway Food Banks Mental Health SupportTalking about mental health can be difficult. Awareness and understanding of mental health issues has undoubtedly improved over the years. However, there are still elements of stigma and shame in play. As detailed above, those in lower income brackets are more likely to experience mental health problems. There is an abundance of free support and advice available for anyone experiencing difficulties with mental health. Some of which include…• Mind• Hub of Hope• Samaritans• Rethink Mental Illness• Live Well Kent• Kent Community Health Community InitiativesThere many local community heroes who are stepping up to support those who need help. For example, the first term back at school can present anxiety for parents/guardians due to the costs of school uniforms. In Kent, Gillingham Street Angels recently set up a school uniform bank to support families unable to afford the cost of brand new school uniforms. It is also worth checking local newspapers and news websites as well as social media for local initiatives that might just be able to help you. World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to provoke positive change and continue to raise awareness of the problems faced by those with mental health issues, ranging from physical symptoms to socioeconomic factors. We hope that signposting key support services that are available will help people who were unaware of the support available. If you are keen to learn more about health inequality and the impact finances can have, our blog ‘Health Inequality in the UK: Building a Fairer and Healthier World’ contains an abundance of information.