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We need to belong. #makeroom

Read about the Norwegian campaign for World Mental Health Day 2023, which was carried out in September and October this year.

This year's engagement was unparalleled, with more than 3300 intitiatives for mental health and social inclusion across the country.

Schools, companies, organizations, municipalities and local communities used this year's campaign to spread knowledge, voice opinions, raise questions and initiate projects that will last far beyond this year's campaign.

World Mental Health Day Norway

  • World Mental Health Day is marked every 10 October around the world. The objective is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.
  • In Norway, the day is marked with a national campaign that mobilises the entire country for a joint effort for the public mental health
  • The campaign is run from week 39-42 every year, and includes initiatives from schools, workplaces, organizations and social communities all over the country.
  • The Norwegian NGO, Mental Helse, coordinates the campaign on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Health.

More inclusive social arenas

One in five Norwegians have few or no one to turn to in difficult times, og there is more loneliness today than there was before the pandemic. For vulnerable and marginalized groups, the numbers are worse.

Research shows that doing something meaningful with others is key to preventing loneliness, social exclusion and strains on our mental health.

Last year we encouraged you to create new opportunities and places to meet. But to combat loneliness, it's not enough to just meet.

Therefore, in 2023, we encouraged you to work actively towards making our social arenas more inclusive.

Illustrasjon med en gjeng gutter som holder rundt hverandre
Illustrasjon av en person som ser seg i speilet og ser oppgitt ut.

Discrimination and stigma reinforces outsiderness

One in five in Norge experiences discrimination on the basis of their health, gender, age, ethnic origin og sexual orientation. A study from OsloMet showed that people that are open about their mental health issues in their job application were 27 per cent less likely to be called for an interview.

Another study from the same research project showed that every third employer is uncertain if employees with a disability is as much of a resource as others.

This affects how we view others and, not to mention, how we view ourselves.

People that face discrimination run a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Prejudices about mental health issues can reinforce self stigma, and make it more difficult to seek help when needed.

A recent national survey from the Norwegian NGO, Mental Helse, showed that nearly half of all youth that struggle with serious mental issues, do not seek help. Another study found that every third childthat experiences bullying in school, says that no adult is aware of it.

People that feel stigmatized, are less likely to participate in social activitiesor be part of any social communities, which can add to their outsiderness.

Are today's workplaces, schools, social communities and neighborhoods only for those that fit the mould?

Illustrasjon som viser en mann som sitter alene og ser fortvilet ut.
Illustrasjon med to personer som sitter sammen på baskettballtrening.

False facades do harm

Meaningful social arenas are important to combat loneliness and exclusion. But an invitation isn't really enough to make you feel less lonely. The people you meet also need to see, understand and accept you for who you really are.

We tend to reach far for a sense of belonging. If we don't feel socially accepted, it is easy to put on a false facade, which in turn can reinforce loneliness. A study from Poland showed that loneliness and the need for self-promotion in social media are closely connected and can be addictive. Other studies have shown that the pressure of happiness in itself can decrease your life quality and reinforce symptoms of depression.

No one is only what you see. Stigma is fed by shame and silence, but shrinks when talked about in the open.

We need to belong

This year we encouraged social initiatives that made room for a greater diversity.

We all have a basic need to belong. The feeling of belonging can be explained as being part of a community where you are wanted, respected and understood as who you are. To be surrounded by people that endure our innermost feelings, serves as protection against long-term stress and anxiety. It can also reduce the risk of emotional escapism, drug abuse and isolation. Several studies also show that the feeling of belonging is more important for work satisfaction than both salary and recognition.

It can be challenging to feel a sense of belonging in a culture where what is normal seems unattainable for most. Social anxiety is the most common form of anxiety disorders in Norway and it is estimated that around 1 in 10 will experience this in certain periods of their life.

The shame of not being like «everyone else» can make us shy further away from what might help us.

Illustrasjon med tre venner som holder rundt hverandre.
Illustrasjon med bilde av puslespillbiter. Den ene biten trekker den andre puslebiten inn i bildet.

Make room

To recognize ourselves in others is vital to feeling a sense of belonging. Research shows that we find it easier to trust people that show vulnerability than those who don't. But if we are unsure of how it will be received, this is easier said than done.

This year's campaign encouraged you to work actively for a more socially inclusive society that reduces the distance between us. This means being aware of who we invite into our communities, how we talk to and about one another, either we meet at work, in school, in the park or on the internet.

Social support can save lives. We all have a responsibility to widen our horizon and make room for more.

We need to belong. #makeroom

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