VATICAN CITY, APR. 4, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed to all Christians to give special attention to the mentally ill, the subject of Saturday's World Health Day 2001, overseen by the World Health Organization (WHO).
"On this occasion, I renew my appeal so that each one, in keeping with his responsibilities, will be committed to defend the dignity and rights of mentally ill patients," the Pope told the 15,000 pilgrims who attended the general audience in St. Peter's Square today.
"No one must remain indifferent in face of these brothers of ours," the Holy Father concluded. "The Church looks upon those who suffer from this sickness with respect and affection, and exhorts the whole human community to accept them, giving special attention to the poorest and most abandoned."
In a statement, WHO explained that the main goal of World Health Day is to stimulate public debate on how to improve mental health around the world.
"Some 400 million people in the world suffer from mental or neurological disorders, or from psychological problems, such as those related to alcohol or drug abuse," WHO said in a statement. "Of every four people who turn to the health services for help, at least one is troubled by these disorders, which are often not correctly diagnosed and thus not treated."
"We have solutions to treat many disorders and to permit persons with mental/brain disorder to be functioning members of the community," the agency said. "Yet, societies still raise barriers to both the care and reintegration of people with mental disorders."