Review of our Jean Vanier film presentation
at the United Nations
A great success for the international premiere of the documentary “Jean Vanier, the Sacrament of Tenderness” held on October 18th at the UN in New York: There was a crowd that evening before the gates of the venerable institution, and the prestigious ECOSOC room where the screening was organized, the largest room of the United Nations with 600 seats, was full. A standing ovation saluted the film and the immense work that it highlights. The achievement of a great humanist, now 90 years old, who founded l’Arche and dedicated his life to the most vulnerable among us, namely people with mental handicaps.
For this occasion, our NGO decided to organize a major evening event dedicated to mental health in general. To raise awareness as broadly as possible in the general public, we called upon many partners: France, Canada, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Organization of La Francophonie, as well as Belgium, Bahrain and the city of New York all played an active part in the event.
According to studies conducted in 2015 by WHO or the World Bank, some 15% to 20% of the world’s population is affected by mental disorders. We may not be impacted directly, but we inevitably have someone in our close environment (family, friends, co-workers…) who is affected. That is why it is high time to take a fresh look at this phenomenon and to get rid of the taboos which surround it. And who could be better to initiate the discussion on that issue than Jean Vanier, who has been working in this field for more than half a century?
The opening remarks were made by Mr. François Delatte, Ambassador of France to the UN Security Council and Mr. Richard Arbeiter, permanent member of Parliament for Canada and Chair of the Group “Friends of Mental Health”. The focus was on the need, not only to provide support to people with mental and/or psychological problems, but to learn from them. That is the very core of the message that l’Arche conveys all around the world.
Upstream of the film screening, a round table was moderated by Dr. Judy Kuriansky, a Clinical Psychologist with the Faculty of Columbia and expert in mental health services. The round table included Frédérique Bedos, Ms. Nata Menabde, Executive Director of WHO and Ms. Meagan Van Harte, Senior Director of the Office of Community Resilience in the Department of Mental Health in New York city. The aim was to look at current solutions in terms of research, prevention, education and awareness.
The task before us is huge, but our commitment can change everything and can effect a positive change in the lives of people who are ill or handicapped, and more broadly, in all our lives!
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