Statement of Finland
Third Committee, Item 28 Social Development
Mr. Jonne Juntura
Youth Delegate of Finland
New York, October 2018
Thank you chair,
It is an honour for me to take part in this discussion as the UN youth delegate of Finland.
March the 13th, 2014, was a day that changed my life. It was on that day that I suddenly fell ill. No, I did not catch a flu. What happened was that I fell ill mentally. Anxiety followed by depression, followed by even stronger anxiety. With no previous experience of mental health problems, I could not understand what was happening to me. I went through moments of anxiety strong enough for me to wish I did not exist. It took me a long time to understand that I was not alone.
Close to 1 million people commit suicide each year. Even in stable societies, only less than half the people in need of mental health services get access to the treatment they need. With 70% of all mental health disorders being diagnosed before the age of 25, youth constitute a large part of this group. With over half of the world population being under 30, there is an urgent need to start paying attention to youth mental health.
In 2015, the UNSC Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security called the Members States to find ways to meaningfully engage the youth in the society to counter the violent extremist narratives. Sustainable peace can be reached only through inclusiveness and through meaningful participation of youth, women and civil society, both in the society and in conflict prevention.
High barriers to access to mental health services, strong stigma and discriminatory policies all stand in the way of us receiving the help we need in order to be healthy, active members of the society. These barriers are even higher for several vulnerable groups, like the LGBTIQ+ community, pregnant women, people living with disabilities and migrants. Acting on youth mental health is crucial for realizing the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and also fundamental in building socially cohesive communities for the future.
Young people's access to rights requires a holistic approach within our societies. The recently published report from OHCHR on youth and human rights recommends the establishment of an international mechanism on young people's rights, and I fully agree. Whether we talk about mental health, employment or education, the only way to create stable societies is by ensuring that young people's rights are realized.
I will conclude by quoting the previous Director-General of WHO, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland: "Mental illness is not a personal failure. In fact, if there is failure, it is to be found in the way we have responded to people with mental and brain disorders," Let´s start changing that attitude now in order to lay the foundations for a more peaceful world.
Thank you chair.