World Health Day at the United Nations

Posted on April 7, 2017 by Ruvi Perumal

Fountain House was asked by the World Health Organization (WHO) to make a statement from the floor at this year’s World Health Day event at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on April 7, 2017. The theme of World Health Day in 2017 was Depression: Let’s Talk.

We were honored to be invited to participate in the high-level discussion about the global impact of mental illness and share our work with global leaders. Below is a transcript of the statement delivered by Jeff Aron, Director of External Affairs at Fountain House and you can view the video of the event in the link at the end of this post.

“On behalf of Fountain House, and more than 300 Fountain House Model programs in 34 countries that annually serve 100,000 people living with serious mental illness, I wish to thank and acknowledge the leadership of the World Health Organization, the United Nations, distinguished colleagues in the room and those around the world who are participating in this important conversation.

Fountain House is a place for people living with severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Since 1948, Fountain House in New York City has provided over 20,000 individuals with the most serious forms of mental illness a place to come, people to form meaningful relationships with, and purpose that goes beyond the management of their symptoms; by engaging in meaningful work, pursuing educational goals, and focusing on health and wellness. We know through our practice in low, middle and high income countries that people can and do lead full and productive lives given the right kinds of support and opportunities.

As we are all aware, people living with severe mental illness die much earlier than the general population. The majority of these deaths are due to preventable physical diseases, especially cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and infections.

In recent years, integrated healthcare, which combines psychiatric and primary care, has emerged as the treatment standard. However, for people living with severe depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, who face stigma and social isolation, a vital third element of social supports is needed.

At Fountain House, our Comprehensive Community System of Care combines medical, psychiatric and social supports. This Comprehensive Community System of Care improves quality of life, significantly reduces suicidality, increases medication adherence, reduces re-hospitalization and emergency room visits, and effectively addresses co-occurring medical illnesses so that people living with serious mental illness lead longer, healthier lives.

Through our partnership with the World Health Organization we have documented the prevalence of excess mortality in people living with severe mental illness in low and middle income countries. Most importantly, we are establishing guidelines and best practices to extend and improve the quality of life for people living with mental illness that will be shared and can be implemented by policy-makers, governments and health care professionals around the world.

Fountain House’s vision is that people with serious mental illness can live and thrive in society, and we are so grateful to have supportive global partners like you.

We thank you again for bringing the issue of depression out of the shadows, and for allowing us to share this floor statement.”


Skip to 1:54:00 to hear our statement:

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