On World Mental Health Day, I am proud to take this opportunity to not only share my first message with you – our community of supporters – but also to celebrate the remarkable contributions of our global movement. One that is based on dignity, human rights, equity, and agency. From the moment I stepped through the doors of Fountain House in New York, I felt the strength of this movement.
Today, and every other day, it is important for us to recognize that mental health is health. As I have seen from my work as a primary care doctor, living with mental illness creates challenges that impact one's ability to care for their overall health and increases social isolation and vulnerability.
What really makes people sick and tears communities apart are not diseases themselves, but the systemic structural injustices and inequities embedded by social, economic and political forces. I know that the choices we make to care – or in most cases, not care – for the most vulnerable among us are a reflection of our moral judgment and the quality of our civilization.
The world needs alternatives to solve the underlying issues that tear our communities apart. Alternatives to the epidemics of social isolation and loneliness. Alternatives to mass incarceration. Alternatives to poor health and mental health outcomes. Alternatives to spiraling healthcare costs and hospitalization. Alternatives to homelessness and a life of exclusion on the streets.
This is what Fountain House and Clubhouses around the world offer to societies under great stress and duress.
For more than 70 years, Fountain House and Clubhouse International have supported the creation of more than 300 programs worldwide, all operated by people with mental illness and built from the ground up to respond to the economic, social, and cultural needs of their individual communities.
Our global community has proven, time and again, that when people with mental illness are given opportunities to engage and create innovative solutions, that issues such as social isolation and marginalization can be addressed.
As a public health practitioner and public servant, I am thrilled to join you on this journey, as we continue to build on decades of success. I hope to harness the full potential of our coalition to ensure that people living with serious mental illness everywhere have access to programs that emphasize their humanity, invest in their strengths and capabilities, foster social connection and relationships, and promote choice and agency for a group of people that often have all of that stripped away from them.
And I look forward to building on this success with you – our community of supporters.
Happy World Mental Health Day.
Ashwin Vasan, MD, PhD
President and CEO