Safe Spaces as Components of a Larger Ecosystem


20 October 2023

Writer: Kevin Miko Buac 
Editor: Richardson dR Mojica 
Graphics: Jia Moral


Mental health affects everyone

Mental health is a vast and interconnected facet of a person’s life, impacting far beyond personal boundaries. It becomes apparent that the mental health of an individual can have a profound effect on the mental well-being of others in their social circle (1). For example when a family, friend, or colleague experiences mental health challenges; it creates emotional stress within the entire web of relationships akin to the ripple effect. This interconnectedness emphasizes the significance of acknowledging not only individual well-being but the collective mental health of a social system.

Furthermore, when examined through the lens of various stakeholders and systems involved in society the implications of mental health are indeed relevant. Untreated and neglected mental health issues can lead to diminished workplace productivity, increased absenteeism, and elevated healthcare expenditures, resulting in a considerable economic burden (2). Societal stigmas surrounding mental health further reinforce the issue by discouraging individuals from seeking help (3). 


Mental health is a human right

In addressing this multidimensional challenge, approaching mental health from a systems perspective emphasizes the necessity of comprehensive strategies that encompass the mental health of individuals, their social networks, and the broader societal and economic consequences. Furthermore, it’s crucial to consider mental health as a fundamental human rights issue. For safeguarding mental well-being is essential to ensure that every individual, regardless of their mental health status, can access supportive and non-discriminatory environments. This approach aligns with the principles of human rights, emphasizing the right to dignity, equality, and non-discrimination, as outlined in various international conventions and declarations, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (4).

Mental health from a systems perspective highlights that creating safe spaces that can encourage open dialogue and empathy. These spaces, whether in the form of community initiatives, virtual platforms, or support networks play a crucial role in breaking down the stigmas associated with mental health and facilitating compassion and understanding among people. Establishing such spaces empowers individuals to seek help, open up, and share their experiences without fear of judgment. Building a culture of compassion and emotional support within society that fosters mental health potentially suggests the promotion of social participation and tackling social exclusion (5). Thus bringing extensive benefits such as increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, lower crime rates, enhanced relationships, and overall societal well-being. Hence prioritizing mental health as a collective goal contributes to a more prosperous and resilient society, benefiting everyone involved.


Reducing healthcare burden

Diving more into the economic and social ramifications of unaddressed mental health issues within society. Neglected mental health problems often result in diminished productivity and increased absenteeism. Establishing safe spaces for open dialogue, empathy, and support is integral in mitigating these costs. Evidence indicates that such support mechanisms contribute to reducing stigma, improving mental health education, and increasing help-seeking behaviors, thus decreasing the societal burden of untreated mental health issues (6). Moreover, safe spaces hold the potential to mitigate the strain on mental healthcare systems by offering early interventions and building community support, thus promoting overall well-being and reducing the burden on overextended healthcare resources.

Session Questions:

  1. How do mental health safe spaces, whether physical or virtual, contribute to reducing stigma surrounding mental health issues, and what role does stigma reduction play in building a mentally healthier communities?
  2. In what ways can establishing safe spaces for promoting dialogue, empathy, and support impact the overall well-being and productivity of a workforce, and how can this affect the broader economic and social systems?
  3. How can we assess the effectiveness and impact of mental health safe spaces in alleviating the burden on healthcare systems while promoting early intervention and support for individuals facing mental health challenges?


  1. Thoits, P. A. (2011). Mechanisms linking social ties and support to physical and mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 52(2), 145–161.
  2. McDaid, D., Park, A., & Wahlbeck, K. (2019). The economic case for the prevention of mental illness. Annual Review of Public Health, 40(1), 373–389.
  3. Stangl, A., Earnshaw, V. A., Logie, C. H., Van Brakel, W. H., Simbayi, L. C., Barré, I., & Dovidio, J. F. (2019). The Health Stigma and Discrimination Framework: a global, crosscutting framework to inform research, intervention development, and policy on health-related stigmas. BMC Medicine, 17(1).
  4. United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  5. Evans‐Lacko, S., Knapp, M., McCrone, P., Thornicroft, G., & Mojtabai, R. (2013). The Mental Health Consequences of the Recession: Economic Hardship and Employment of People with Mental Health Problems in 27 European Countries. PLOS ONE, 8(7), e69792.
  6. Clément, S., Schauman, O., Graham, T., Maggioni, F., Evans‐Lacko, S., Bezborodovs, N., Morgan, C., Rüsch, N., Brown, J., & Thornicroft, G. (2014). What is the impact of mental health-related stigma on help-seeking? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies. Psychological Medicine, 45(1), 11–27.
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