Address by Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of the global summit on mental health “Mind our Rights, Now!”
(Address pronounced in French)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When we talk about mental health and psychosocial wellbeing, we are not only talking about serious mental illness, but also, for example, about the effects of stress and anxiety, which may be linked to family difficulties, poverty, or even conflict.
In order to respond to these very diverse situations, we need to develop listening, counselling and care practices that are suited to the specific situation of each individual.
The sociocultural context and environment also play an important role. As the COVID 19 pandemic has demonstrated, dramatic changes in the social and economic environment can affect mental wellbeing on a huge scale. The most vulnerable, including the young, the elderly and populations in precarious situations, are the first to be affected.
Furthermore, the practitioners involved in the different forms of care offer a very diverse range of skills. As we know, there are differences between conventional medical or psychological methods and those that recommend intervening in people’s life situation. Yet these skills could be complementary. The Summit that brings us here today, a few days before World Mental Health Day, offers the great advantage of allowing these different approaches to meet. We will be better able to measure how they can be mutually enriching, while respecting diversity.
This will require building bridges, creating coalitions between policymakers, international organisations, civil society organisations, people affected by psychological disorders, their families and the communities in which they live. It will be necessary to promote the exchange of information, knowledge and sensitivities, as well as comparison of experiences that allow for responses adequate for the needs expressed.
This increased cooperation between professionals from sometimes very different backgrounds should also make it possible to broaden the cross-disciplinary approach to mental wellbeing, to anchor it more firmly in policy on the family, health, education, social remediation, and even the struggle against poverty.
To progress, it is of primary importance to listen to patients, to those seeking psychosocial support, to those who have experienced mental distress. We must respond quickly and as well as possible to their expectations and needs. Even today, stigma is a major obstacle for people seeking counselling or care. Stigma fuels fear, mistrust, contempt, discrimination and even violence towards them. All of this undermines the dignity and rights of the individual. The resulting lack of understanding and isolation are additional sources of anxiety and stress. We must stop this. Briefly, the message we should give is, “You are not alone”. On the contrary, as human beings, we are all likely to encounter psychological difficulties at some time. This issue concerns all of us.
Better listening should lead to more targeted support. Respecting the choices and wishes of patients and others who seek support should be at the heart of the various practitioners’ work, whether they are doctors, educators, social assistants, counsellors or community members. In this respect, it is essential that they provide correct information about the choices and possibilities in accessible language, and that they do so in an open dialogue that respects the rights of the individual. This is the only way to ensure we leave no one behind.
Let us see this as a first step for all those who aspire to nothing more than to rebuild their life, to recover their autonomy and to regain the ability to be the author of their own life within society.