New York

23 September 2019

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at event on “Mental Health for All” [as prepared for delivery]

Excellencies,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
I am pleased to join you in drawing attention to one of the most neglected areas of global health and people’s well-being.
 
Mental health concerns us all.  Almost all of us have either personally, or through supporting others, been affected by a mental health condition.
 
We know that one in four people will be affected by a mental condition at some point in their lives.
 
Tragically, every 40 seconds, a person dies of suicide.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 29 year olds.
 
We must now bring this major health challenge into the open.  We dishonor people through invisibility. And we unjustifiably cap their potential.  Mental Health accounts for more than $1 trillion per year in economic losses.
 
These dramatic and unnecessary losses are not surprising because mental health cuts across all the Sustainable Development Goals.  It is closely linked to education, employment, economic growth, climate change and conflict.
 
Yet Governments spend less than 1 per cent of health budgets on mental health; and less than 1 per cent of international aid for global health is allocated to mental health. 
This lack of investment means that 80 per cent of people living with mental health conditions are unable to access or receive mental health care, especially in lower and middle-income countries and neighborhoods, and those affected by humanitarian crises. 
 
Even in the wealthiest nations, mental health services are marginalized and under-resourced.
 
Too often today, recognizing mental health is still considered taboo; individuals with a mental health diagnosis are stigmatized, and are scared to seek help.  This is debilitating and simply unacceptable.
 
Put simply, there is no health without mental health.
 
I am inspired to see civil society speaking up and forming coalitions to reduce stigma and to fight for the right to treatment. 
           
The United Nations itself is part of this movement. 
 
Mental health matters, both in the UN’s work around the world, and for our staff. 
 
Last year, the Secretary-General launched the UN System Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which aims to enhance staff mental health and wellbeing, and build a supportive and stigma-free workplace culture.
 
And the World Health Organization recently launched a five-year Special Initiative for Mental Health as part of our work to achieve universal health coverage.
 
It is time to speak openly about what has too long been hidden, downplayed and sometimes even belittled.
 
It is time, and it is possible, to deliver mental health for all.
           
Universal health coverage means the right to physical and mental health.
 
As countries move along the path towards universal health coverage, mental health must be fully integrated.
           
We need leaders to put mental health high on the global policy agenda, and to address the insignificant levels of investment in national health budgets.
 
This event takes place following the first ever High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage. This is our chance to ensure that mental health figures prominently.
 
We must now translate the Declaration’s commitments into widespread action.
 
We are ready to do this in partnership with you.
 
Thank you.