We are happy to share the launch of the European Commission’s Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Initiative. This initiative is set to transform the way mental health is understood, promoted, and addressed across Europe.
The initiative was launched with a call for evidence to develop and fine-tune the approach, demonstrating the commitment to a process that is both evidence-based and responsive to the needs of people in the EU. It underscores the important role that action at the EU level can play in promoting good mental health and preventing, mitigating, and responding to mental health challenges. The initiative is underpinned by three fundamental principles intended to benefit every EU citizen:
- Ensuring access to sufficient and effective preventive measures
- Guaranteeing access to high-quality and affordable mental health care and treatment
- Facilitating societal reintegration following recovery.
9 Key Takeaways from the Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Initiative:
- Mental Health in All Policies – A comprehensive mental health policy that spans all policy areas including health, care, education, youth, social protection, justice, migration, employment, and others at European, national, regional, and local levels is needed. The Commission will support Member States in several ways. It aims to bolster capacity-building for a policy approach that promotes mental health, supports the transfer of best practices, assists in promoting mental health in vulnerable groups, and backs research and innovation in mental health
- Promotion of Mental Health Prevention and Early Detection – Promoting good mental health, preventing problems, and providing early interventions are not only more effective but also more cost-effective than treatment. People’s health decisions are influenced by various factors such as nutrition, physical activity, alcohol and tobacco use, living conditions, clean air, access to sports, culture, and green areas. The Commission will launch initiatives to address the key determinants of mental health, promote sports and health-enhancing physical activity, raise awareness of the impact of cultural and artistic activities, and encourage member states to adopt best practices in mental health promotion and prevention.
- Mental Health of Children and Young People – Europe is currently facing a deterioration in youth mental health, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among young people. These adversities and harmful behaviours like substance abuse significantly impact their long-term health. Digital tools, while offering potential benefits such as access to mental health resources, also pose threats like exposure to inappropriate content and online abuse. The Commission plans to support Member States in implementing the European Child Guarantee, track progress, and continue the EU Youth Strategy for improved mental health. Efforts will be made to bolster mental health promotion in educational settings, including support for the Pathways to School Success initiative, developing well-being guidelines for schools, proposing self-assessment tools for school well-being, and funding projects that enhance youth mental health
- Helping Those Most in Need – Mental health issues can stem from a variety of factors such as social, economic, environmental, and situational causes, which often disproportionately affect those in vulnerable situations. As a result, older persons, women, and minority groups often experience a higher risk of mental health problems. The Commission has outlined strategies to address these disparities, which include addressing mental health inequalities through data collection and information, supporting women who are victims of gender-based violence, facilitating the exchange of best practices among Member States, promoting national homelessness strategies, preventing and countering illegal hate speech online and supporting the implementation of the European Care Strategy.
- Tackling Psycho-Social Risks at Work – Workplace environments have a significant influence on mental health. Stress and other psychosocial risks can result in decreased job satisfaction, productivity, conflict, absenteeism, and increased turnover. Conversely, good mental health is vital for job competence and productivity. The Commission will continue to support measures that improve mental health at work. This includes revising workplace directives, promoting good practices, facilitating discussions and identification of best practices related to the right to disconnect, and disseminating the guidance of the Disability Employment Package on the prevention and retention of work of individuals with disabilities and chronic diseases.
- Reinforcing Mental Health Systems and Improving Access to Treatment and Care – Disparities exist between and within Member States concerning health systems’ ability to meet mental health needs. Factors like gender, ethnicity, geographical location, education, age, and sexual orientation can significantly impact mental health and access to adequate care. It’s crucial to identify best practices and innovative solutions to improve the availability, quality, accessibility, and affordability of mental health care. The Commission will undertake several actions, including addressing market needs for medicines, reviewing the potential of telemedicine, supporting Member States in improving access to mental health services, including a mental health section in the 2023 country health profiles, exploring the potential of new technologies for mental health prevention and treatment.
- Breaking Through Stigma – Stigma and discrimination worsen the personal and economic impacts of mental ill-health, with such discrimination being particularly prevalent on social media. Key strategies for improvement include investing in raising awareness and understanding of mental health, incorporating mental health and empathy training into school curricula, and engaging all stakeholders. The Commission plans to develop EU guidance on breaking through stigma and tackling discrimination in collaboration with the Member States under the Expert Group on Public Health.
- Global Collaboration – Promoting mental health is a global priority, and the EU aims to lead by example, making strategic contributions at the international level. The EU Global Health Strategy provides actions to achieve health-related UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focusing on three key areas: improving health and well-being across the lifespan, strengthening health systems and advancing universal health coverage, and ensuring public health security, including mental health and psychosocial support. the Commission will further support global research and innovation on brain health, including mental health, and will continue to fund quality mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) interventions worldwide. It will keep mobilising and raising the awareness of donors and partners on the importance of providing quality MHPSS in humanitarian emergencies, and organise outreach sessions in regions currently not covered by such initiatives.
- The Budget for Mental Health – A total sum of EUR 1.23 billion has been earmarked by the EU for mental health initiatives, ready to fund activities either directly or indirectly.. The Horizon Europe programme will mobilize EUR 340 million in funding to support research and innovation projects on mental health. Through the EU4Health programme, EUR 49.7 million has been allocated to support capacity-building initiatives in Member States and address the mental health of vulnerable groups. Plus an extra budget for different initiatives based around technical support, mental health capacity building, creative projects, and psychosocial support in humanitarian situations.
You can find a brief overiew of the initiative here or the full document with all the details, including detailed information on flagship intiatives and recommendations for the Member States, by following this link