Message from the President

Pirkko Lahti is the new WFMH President and will also serve as interim Secretary General/CEO. Photo credit: Pekka Elomaa

Photo credit: Pekka Elomaa

I have often, on different occasions, tried to find out from people what things are really important in their lives. Usually they reply by talking about an exceptional situation – either good or bad – that they have experienced. They seldom say that the highlight is an ordinary situation, perhaps something that happens every day, but where everything is routine and turns out well. In reality, everyday life is the “spice of life,” everyday life has stability, and everyday life is significant.

The dramatic terrorist attacks of today are unique experiences. People are anguished and they feel a strong need to share their experiences. They are scared. I mean not only the devastation of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but also the rough handling of small children in the religious conflict in Northern Ireland, the conflict between Palestine and Israel, and the killing of parliament members in Switzerland some weeks ago. Some alarming incident is taking place in almost every country right now – and thus also in every area of the World Federation for Mental Health. We are living in a vulnerable, accident-prone world where people themselves as well as the forces of nature increase traumatic experiences and the incidence of crises.

Increasingly, we are looking for new alignments to guarantee our individual survival and that of mankind. Will this come from religion, or from politics, or from negotiated rules? We have faced intentional evil, we have faced the grief, malaise and suffering of many people.

The situation the United States has encountered a very exceptional manifestation of evil. Many other countries have also had such shocking experiences.

A return to everyday life happens through normalization. We must live from day to day, go on with everyday life. Networks are the everyday life of the World Federation for Mental Health – to help people, to interact with them. Normal activities continue. The mental health report of the World Health Organization has just been published. The World Federation for Mental Health and the World Health Organization share common concerns about conditions in Africa, Asia, South America, the United States and Europe, drawing attention to issues connected with mental health and trying to find means for improvement. The seminar “Work and Mental Health” has just ended at the headquarters of the International Labour Organization in Geneva, and a similar seminar for Asia is being arranged in Hong Kong. In Europe, Belgium is celebrating its year of mental health.

Our regions are active and so are our individual members. The World Federation for Mental Health continues its everyday work, and its members carry on with their own work. The Federation and its members try to find the means to survive and handle even catastrophic situations. The strongest means is everyday plodding – to continue living.

I would like to direct hearty thanks to all the volunteers in mental health for their work. If it was not clear before, the past weeks have shown the significance of voluntary power in handling problems.

I wish you all strength in your work and your life. We are needed.

Pirkko Lahti


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