Speech by President von der Leyen at the third Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen dedicated to mental health, via video message

Dear First Lady of Ukraine, dear Olena,
Dear First Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished guests.

Thank you so much for the invitation, but most importantly, for putting mental health at the centre of your summit. Let me begin with good news. More and more people are finally talking openly about mental health. It used to be a taboo. But this is changing. Our societies are finally realising that we all need to take care of our mind, just like we take care of all other parts of our body. Last year, we asked Europeans from all walks of life to tell us about the issues that they care most about, where they would like to see more action from the European Union. Mental health came up among the top issues mentioned. People wanted us to finally put mental health on par with all other health issues. And this is exactly what we have done. For the first time ever, we have placed mental health on the EU agenda.

We want all Europeans to have equal access to prevention and treatment. And we want mental health to be an issue not only for doctors and Health Ministers, but for all of us, in our governments, in our schools and in our workplaces. We are supporting this with over one billion euros in funding. Europe is now lifting the veil of silence on what some call “a silent epidemic”.

In no country is this more important than in Ukraine. What the people of Ukraine are currently going through is hell on earth. I cannot imagine the trauma of those who’ve had to dig with their bare hands through the rubble of their homes. The trauma of soldiers at the front. The trauma of children robbed of their childhood. But also the stress of the citizens, whose night’s rest is repeatedly interrupted by Air Alert. The horror of this war is unspeakable. And yet, it so important that young Ukrainians have a chance to speak about this.

There can be no stigma for struggling to make sense and cope with difficult times like this. And there should always be someone you can talk to, especially for children, to get the advice and the care you need.

This is why, with you, dear Olena, and with President Zelensky, we are launching a specialised e-learning program for primary care medical staff in Ukraine, focusing precisely on children’s mental health. Yes, Ukraine’s future depends on tanks, ammunition, and on the bravery of its soldiers. But Ukraine’s future also depends on whether Ukraine’s children are all right. And it is amazing that you, dear Olena, are making this a priority for Ukraine. You are leading Ukraine not only towards victory, but towards a better future.

Slava Ukraini,
and long live Europe.