Statement by Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, at the launch of the Pan-European Mental Health Coalition, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of the Belgians
30 September 2021, Brussels, Belgium
Your Majesty, Commissioner Kyriakides, distinguished guests, public health champions,
It is with great pleasure but also with a profound sense of responsibility that I welcome you here today for the launch of the Pan-European Coalition on mental health.
As Hippocrates said 2,500 years ago that every disease starts from the psyche, the soul, so we too begin to unite our forces to strengthen exactly where it all begins from: our mental health and well-being.
This Coalition is also a personal aspiration of mine, a burning desire that was born over the many years of listening to the stories of people on the ground, working with those most marginalized in society all over the world, both before and after assuming the position of Regional Director.
The numbers are relentless: At least 150 million people in the WHO European Region lived with a mental health condition before COVID-19 hit, and only a fraction was receiving the support they needed. Obviously, things have deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic. And we all have been affected.
Back in July this year, at the Athens Mental Health Summit convened by WHO and hosted by the Government of Greece, policy-makers and experts from across the 53 countries in the European Region issued an appeal for mental health to be placed at the heart of the recovery.
Today, we are responding to that call through the launch of the Pan-European Mental Health Coalition.
I see the Mental Health Coalition as a catalyst for hope, hope for change at all levels:
At individual level, hope is the inner substance needed in the journey of mental health and wellbeing;
At community level hope strengthens and encourages the collective belief in investing in actions and initiatives that ensure significant and sustained positive impacts on the social and other determinants of people’s mental health and well-being;
At the national and pan-European level hope empowers governments, international organizations and funders to move forward, assimilating the lessons learnt from the pandemic and designing health systems and mental health services for future generations who will no longer be vulnerable to a similar public health crisis in the future.
We envision the Mental Health Coalition as the vehicle to transform this hope for change into a practical reality which will determine the future of our children and that of our children’s children.
We will do so by activating immediately, WITH ALL OF YOU, three streams of work:
FIRST: We will organize for the exchange of knowledge and good practices working with Member States, international organizations and non-state actors, including civil society, representing service users and their families, academia, philanthropic organizations and the private sector.
SECOND: We will collaborate with all the members of the Coalition to create people friendly mental health services with support at the community level; mobilize resources for investment in mental health; collect accurate data and advocate for mental health service reforms that are gender sensitive and promote human rights.
THIRD: We will raise public awareness of mental health; tackle stigma and discrimination, and support programmes to prevent mental health conditions including at the workplace and with emphasis always, to the most vulnerable groups of the population.
I sincerely believe that in this way, we will be able to stand here in a few years celebrating the difference that altogether, we have made.