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Belgium’s Queen Mathilde delivers address to WHO

Queen Mathilde of the Belgians has delivered an address to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in her native French.

The Queen, who worked as a speech therapist and earned a master’s degree in psychology, spoke about mental health.

“When I accepted to become an Advocate for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, I decided to make mental health one of my priorities. I am very pleased, therefore, to be able to contribute to the discussions on this crucial subject,” she said.

The Queen then added, “Unless people have good mental health, neither they nor their society can achieve their full potential. Investing in human capital is essential for development.

Problems linked to mental health affect people of all ages and all social backgrounds. Some may suffer from an illness of a genetic or physical nature, others from stress or anxiety. We know that young people and the elderly are the most vulnerable. But people everywhere – in both developed and developing countries – are affected.”

She also focused on the taboos of mental illness and obstacles that result, as well as lack of medical care for these issues.

“All too often, there is a lack of quality medical and social care, and mental health is not always considered to be a priority. The resources available to the medical health sector remain too limited. In this perspective, the inclusion of mental pathologies as part of universal health coverage should be generalised. Furthermore, the number of qualified professionals remains inadequate. It is, therefore, essential to encourage enrolment in this type of training.

“Nonetheless, new ways of dealing with mental health are being developed, offering alternatives to medicalisation and institutionalisation. They involve patients themselves, their families and communities, as well as volunteers and of course, professionals, in an approach that is more respectful of human rights and dignity.”

Her Majesty then shared her experience of seeing music projects positively impacting children with mental illness. She also spoke of her recent trip to Mozambique, where she was “touched by the solidarity between families and friends in supporting adults and children in difficulty” at Chokwe District Hospital.

The Queen also stressed the importance of sharing experiments to help with mental health initiatives, “If we want to accelerate the implementation of our targets for mental health, research results and conclusive experiments must be shared as widely as possible.”

She later added, “We urgently need to give new impetus to the implementation of the United Nations’ Goal for mental health, SDG 3, and indeed to all the SDGs.”

The full speech (in English) can be read here.

Queen Mathilde was re-appointed as an Advocate for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals on 9 May of this year by UN Secretary-General António Guterres (Portugal). She was initially appointed to the position in 2016 by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (South Korea). Other royals holding this position are Nigerian Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano and Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden is an alumni advocate.

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