The government’s current priority is “undoubtedly” mental health, Health Minister Michael Damianos said on Thursday.

Speaking at the Cyprus Healthcare Conference, he pointed out that according to estimates published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in 2019, 17.2 per cent of people in Cyprus – around one in six – have experienced some form of mental health problem.

For this reason, he said, his ministry has prepared a national strategy for actions pertaining to “destigmatisation, prevention, treatment, and reintegration” for people suffering from mental health problems.

“Through strategic planning, systematic informing of people and raising of awareness have also been promoted, while new initiatives to care for people dealing with mental health problems will also be launched,” he said.

The strategy’s creation had been announced by Damianos’ predecessor Popi Kanari in December, who had said at the time that while “narrow timeframes” had been given for it to be devised and implemented, the timeframes in question were “feasible”.

She said a committee has already been created involving all the relevant stakeholders, and that the creation of the strategy would help to support the sector which, she said, has been “a bit forgotten” historically.

In addition to the matter of mental health on Thursday, Damianos also extolled the virtues of Gesy, describing it as the “biggest reform seen since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus”.

He also pointed out that Gesy will celebrate the fifth anniversary of its creation on June 1.

In addition, he pointed out that the European Commission had said last year that more than 99 per cent of Cyprus’ population now have healthcare and that every legal resident in the country has the right to healthcare, regardless of their income or other contributions.

He added that the commission had said overall service availability has increased, while waiting times have decreased.

He went on to say, “the health ministry’s health policy is governed by the fundamental principle that health as a social good is the state’s responsibility.”

“Our purpose is to ensure this basic right for everyone, so that everyone can enjoy high levels of health. We understand the rapid developments in technology and the changing needs of the ageing population and recognise the challenges which greatly affect the healthcare sector,” he said.