Message from the WFMH Secretary-General 2023


Message from the WFMH Secretary-General 2023

Gabriel Ivbijaro

On 10 October 2023 we will be celebrating World Mental Health Day with the theme ‘Mental Health is a Universal Human Right’ chosen by a global vote open to the public, including World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) members, stakeholders, and supporters.

This year’s World Mental Health Day celebration coincides with the 75th Anniversary of the foundation of the WFMH in 1948. At its foundation a range of recommendations were made, including that specialised agencies of the United Nations (UN) should do everything possible to co-ordinate their activities in the interest of developing adequate mental health programmes within each member nation; and that the World Health Organization (WHO) give adequate attention to mental health principles in their health programmes, drawing on international professional organisations for co-operation.

1948 was an important year for human rights because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted on 10 December 1948 by the UN General Assembly with Article 1 thereof stating: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’

Although the UDHR did not specifically mention mental health, and neither was it a treaty, by 1966, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was adopted, Article 12 whereof stated: ‘The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.’

The United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was adopted in 2007 with the vision ‘to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY 2023 – Mental Health is a Universal Human Right. 4 rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity’ and included people with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments.

Despite all efforts by the UN, WHO, WFMH, governments, institutions and other agencies, mental health discrimination, harmful stereotypes and stigma in the community, family, schools and the workplace still persist. The same prevents healthy relationships, social interactions and inclusive environments needed for the well-being of all members of society and presents barriers to the enjoyment of full well-being for all, especially those with mental health challenges.

Previous reports by the UN Human Rights office highlight that people with mental health conditions and those with psychosocial disabilities experience disproportionately higher rates of poor physical health and reduced life expectancy. Stigma is also a significant determinant of quality care and access to the full range of services required.

Investment and transformation in mental health is needed to help stop the widespread human rights violations that people with mental health conditions continue to experience worldwide.

This year’s theme enables us to re-double our efforts to ensure that everybody should receive quality mental health care and that the human rights and well-being of people with mental illness are respected in all parts of the world so that every person with a mental health difficulty has:

  1. The right to be protected from known harms to mental health; a universal right which applies to the entire population, but especially the vulnerable including children, minorities and the displaced peoples.
  2. The right to access quality and affordable care when a person is struggling with their mental health.
  3. The right to freedom and dignity, including the right of choice. The 2023 World Mental Health Day theme ‘Mental Health is a Universal Human Right’ provides us with an opportunity to re-kindle our efforts to make the world a better place.

We invite you to join this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign.

Professor Gabriel Ivbijaro MBE JP
WFMH Secretary-General
Visiting Professor Population Mental Health NOVA University Lisbon Portugal Honorary Visiting Fellow Bradford University School of Management UK Past President WFMH President & Founder The World Dignity Project