Kalimera sas (Hello)
Dear ministers, friends and colleagues,
It is a great honor for me to address you at the opening of this important event.
Let me thank our friends in the Greek government for working with us to organize this special initiative, Mental Health Week.
As you know, mental health is a subject close to my heart and I am so proud that we are taking this opportunity to highlight the mental health of young people and adolescents in particular.
It is timely and important.
Today, more than half of the inhabitants of our planet are under 30 years old.
As you know, 2022 has been marked as the European Year of Youth, and just last week I was in Tirana for the first ever WHO/Europe Youth Forum. Believe me when I say this: I was so impressed with the energy, commitment and dedication of the over 150 young people at the forum.
It goes without saying that mental health was high on the agenda and one of their biggest concerns.
And while we often recognize the energy and commitment of young people, we must also be aware of their health needs.
This is why I welcome this initiative and sincerely hope that the next 3 days will be full of contributions on how we can improve the mental health of young people and adolescents, in Greece and in our region.
The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on the mental well-being of young people. Forced isolation, being away from friends, away from sports and leisure activities, it was hard.
Two years ago, an event of this magnitude – including a concert – would have been impossible; so, we’ve come a long way.
But people, and young people in particular, still face many challenges in today’s world.
The war in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis that has seen prices rise across the board, continue to add pressure on people’s lives and their mental well-being.
Today, we are here so that the joint efforts of WHO/Europe and Greece, thanks to the important contribution of the WHO Office for Quality and Patient Safety in Athens, can make a difference in the lives of people in our Region who continue to fight the toll of the pandemic and now the war in Europe.
In line with our pan-European mental health coalition and our European work programme, and building on the mental health summit we organized with our Greek partners in July 2021, this event is part of a ongoing effort to create a world where young people can thrive – for generations to come.
With this in mind, I would like to thank the Minister of Health of Greece, Mr. Thanos Plevris, and the alternate minister, Ms. Mina Gaga, for our great collaboration; the Deputy Minister of Health, Ms Zoe Rapti, for her tireless and valuable contribution not only to the Pan-European Mental Health Coalition since its inception, but also for her efforts to develop the National Mental Health Action Plan 2022-2030 for Greece, in collaboration with WHO/Europe.
At the same time, I would like to thank the Greek Minister for Development and Investment, Mr. Adonis Georgiadis, for his unwavering support in our joint efforts since 2013.
I hope that these 3 days will lead to concrete actions and ideas so that we can ensure the mental health of our children and young people of the highest quality.
Thank you, Premier Mitsotakis and your entire government for taking youth mental health so seriously.
As the Greek philosopher Pythagoras said 2500 years ago, “arxi politias apasis neon trofa” – the foundation of every city, of every country, of our whole civilization depends on the education of our youth. We are therefore bound by this great responsibility towards the present and future generations of humanity.
Sas efcharisto. Thanks.