Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki‑moon’s message for World Mental Health Day, to be observed on 10 October:
World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the challenges faced by people with severe mental health problems and what can be done to make their lives better. This year, we focus particularly on those living with schizophrenia and the families and friends who help them cope.
Around the world, some 21 million people suffer from schizophrenia, a disorder that affects perception, cognition, behaviour and emotions. In places where health and social services are unable to provide support, schizophrenia and other severe mental disorders can banish people to the borders of society, leaving them unemployed and homeless.
People with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia also die on average between 10 and 25 years earlier than the general population. A key reason is an unhealthy lifestyle, such as smoking, harmful use of alcohol, poor diet and lack of regular exercise. Yet that can change. Schizophrenia is treatable. It does not have to mean a life sentence of isolation and poor physical health. Appropriate mental and physical health care, along with regular monitoring and psychological and social support, can make a profound difference. So, too, can the recognition by society at large that people with schizophrenia and other severe mental disorders have equal rights and deserve understanding and assistance.
On this World Mental Health Day, I call for health and social care systems to work together to provide opportunities for education, employment and housing. I encourage health services to expand care in the community and to support the creation of support networks for patients and carers. And I urge people suffering from schizophrenia to go for regular health checks and seek advice on healthy living. Together, we can provide dignity and hope to all those suffering from schizophrenia and other severe mental illness.