Mental illness and brain disorders cause tremendous pain in our world. An estimated 450 million people suffer from some mental or behavioural disorder. One million people commit suicide each year, and between 10 to 20 million attempt it. Only a small percentage of these people receive even the most basic care. Often, the debilitating effects of mental illness are exacerbated by discrimination and shame. And the social and economic burdens imposed on families, communities and public services are enormous.
These numbers may seem overwhelming, but there is hope for those who suffer, as well as for their families, in all countries and societies. Solutions exist, and they are affordable and available.
Throughout 2001, the World Health Organization has carried out a global campaign to raise public awareness about mental health. Its new World Health Report -- "Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope" -- looks at depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and several other mental and brain disorders. It deals with prevention, treatment and the provision of services. Most importantly, it makes ten recommendations for action.
It is time for governments to make mental health a priority, and to allocate the resources, develop the policies and implement the reforms needed to address this urgent problem. One in four people will suffer from mental illness at some time in life. On World Mental Health Day, let us recognize that mental illness affects us all, whether personally or through a family member, friend or colleague. And let us pledge to work together to break down the stigma associated with mental illness, and ensure that those who suffer receive the care, treatment and understanding they so desperately need.