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Mental health and development – Opening Remarks by Her Majesty The Queen

12 July 2016

Meeting on “Making  Mental Health a Global Development Priority”

Opening Remarks by HM The Queen of Belgium

United Nations New York
12 July 2016

Making Mental Health a global Development Priority

I thank the UN for organising this meeting on Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority. And thank you all for accepting the invitation.

I studied psychology and I am a speech therapist. So I have a personal interest in mental health issues. Because of my background, and as a Special SDG Advocate, I want to bring mental health into the spotlight; to give credibility and visibility to mental health disorders worldwide. Because stigma and prejudice are still prevalent.

But mental health disorders are not only a health issue but also a global development issue. It is estimated that 10% of the world’s population, including 20% of children and adolescents, suffer from some sort of mental disorder. When people are unable to go to school or work, or to participate fully in society, mental disorders become a significant economic burden.

So, addressing mental health needs is especially critical in times of crisis and recovery, as well as for sustainable development. We are all witness to the growing number of conflicts, crises and catastrophes, all of which add to people’s stress and mental instability.

Children are particularly vulnerable. Their trauma lasts long after a conflict has ended.

Poverty is itself a stressor.  And the extremely poor often live in settings of conflict and violence, compounding their stress. Humanitarian and natural disasters compromise victims’ future as well as their present. All of them need access to mental healthcare and psychological support.

But mental health disorders are not confined to poor countries. In wealthy countries, too, the rates of anxiety, depression and suicide are alarmingly high.

So we should invest more in mental healthcare and psychological support. After all, the returns in terms of general health, social and economic benefits are significant.

The SDGs provide a framework for action on mental health.  SDG 3 (health and well-being for all) and SDG 8 (decent economic and employment conditions) and SDG 16 (peaceful societies and human rights) are all linked to mental health.

I hope that our discussion this morning will give me some ideas on ways to promote greater mental health worldwide. I think all of us here are convinced that it is very important. But right now we must reflect on ways to give it more prominence in the global development agenda.