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New EPF Board Member Hilkka Kärkkäinen: Mental Health is as Important as Physical Health

©EPF

Hilkka Kärkkäinen, President of GAMIAN-Europe puts pen to paper and shares with us her vision for EPF and priorities for the near future. 

My name is Hilkka Kärkkäinen and I am President of Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Network, GAMIAN-Europe, an EPF Member. I live in Helsinki with my husband where we enjoy a fresh retirement. I am a social worker by profession and I have worked both for the City of Helsinki and the City of Espoo in Child Welfare for many years. I have also worked as a Senior Social Worker in Probation and After Care Association in Helsinki for seven years altogether.

I have been dedicated to work for Mental Health Patients for about twenty years now.

In my job as an office manager in Espoo Social Services I was responsible of the Horizon employment project for mental health patients. In 1998-2002 I worked as an Executive Director of Finnish Central Association for Mental Health, which is the biggest Mental Health Patients’ organization in Europe with about 18 000 individual members.

I have been President of Mieli Maasta, which is a patient organisation for those suffering from depression, and I am still a member. I worked for the City of Järvenpää as a Planner of Regional Mental Health Care. Finally, I also have my own experience as a patient having gone through reactive depression in 2001-2002.

As an EPF Board member I want to emphasize that mental health is as important as physical health. I wish EPF would set up a project on comorbidities in the future to bring together different patient groups. It is in my vision that mental health patients are cared for in general health care and general hospitals instead of separate institutions. This would also improve mental health patients’ access to health care enormously.  Mental Health Impact Assessment should be brought to all decision making in the future, too. I hope that my expertise in Mental Health benefits the whole membership of EPF.