Kalimera sas (Good morning)Dear Ministers, friends and colleagues, It is my great honour to address you at the opening of this important event.Please allow me to 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 topic very close to my heart, and I am so proud that we are using this opportunity to highlight the mental health of young people and adolescents specifically. This is timely and important. Today, more than half of the people living on our planet are under 30. As you know, 2022 has been marked as the European Year of Youth, and just last week, I was in Tirana for WHO/Europe’s first-ever youth forum. Believe me when I say this: I was so positively overwhelmed by the sheer energy, commitment and dedication of the more than 150 young people at the forum. It goes without saying that mental health was at the very top of the agenda and one of their biggest concerns. And while we often recognize young people’s energy and commitment, we need to be equally aware of their health needs. That’s why I commend this initiative and very much hope that the next 3 days will be full of inputs on how we can improve the mental health of young people and adolescents, in Greece and across our region. The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on young people’s mental well-being. Forced isolation, being away from friends, away from their sports and leisure activities, was hard. Two years ago, such a large-scale event – including a concert – would have been impossible; so, we have come a long way. But people, and youth specifically, still face many challenges in today’s world. 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 stand here so that the joint efforts of WHO/Europe and Greece, through the significant contribution of the WHO Office on Quality of Care and Patient Safety in Athens, can make a difference in the lives of those people across our Region who continue to struggle with the pandemic’s toll and now the war in Europe. In line with our Pan-European Mental Health Coalition and our European Programme of Work, and building on the Mental Health Summit we hosted together with our Greek partners back in July 2021, this event is part of an ongoing course of action that aims to create a world where young people can prosper – for generations to come. In this light, I would like to thank the Minister of Health of Greece, Mr Thanos Plevris, and the Alternate Minister, Madam 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 her efforts to form the 2022–2030 National Mental Health Action Plan for Greece, in collaboration with WHO/Europe. At the same time, I would like to thank the Minister of Development and Investment of Greece, Mr Adonis Georgiadis, for his enduring support in our common endeavours since 2013.
My hope is that these 3 days will result in concrete actions and ideas so that we can ensure that the mental health of our children and young people is of the highest quality. Thank you, Prime Minister Mitsotakis and all your government for taking young people’s mental health so seriously. As the Greek philosopher Pythagoras said 2500 years ago, “arxi politias apasis neon trofa” – the foundation of every city, every country, our entire civilization depends on the upbringing of our youth. We are therefore bound by this great responsibility towards the present and future generations of humankind. Efcharisto poli.Sas efcharisto. Thank you.