In a landmark decision, the Council of the European Union has approved a set of comprehensive conclusions on mental health, marking a significant step forward in the EU’s approach to this critical issue. The Council, recognising the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other challenges exacerbating mental health issues like the ongoing war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, and the pressures of the digital era, set the tone for a series of measures on the EU and national levels.
GAMIAN-Europe, has been advocating for an overarching EU-wide mental health strategy since 2016; one of its main elements related to the need for dedicated national action programmes, coordinated by the Commission, taking the examples of such action plans in the areas of cancer and rare diseases. Together with other EU-level mental health related organisations, the organisation sent letters to the Spanish Presidency to further press for EU and action, specifically for national action programmes – and this apparebtly has been well received.
While GAMIAN-Europe welcomes this push for national action programmes, we still urge the Commission and Parliament to implement a full mental health strategy at the EU level to set a gold standard across the European Union. We also support the Council’s conclusions to the Commission to adopt the EU Year for Mental Health by 2029, something that GAMIAN-Europe and other relevant mental health NGOs have also been pushing to implement for many years.
These EPSCO conclusions were developed following extensive discussions and consultations, including Commission’s communication on “A Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health” and input from Ministers of Health. They are summarised as follows:
Improving Access and Care: The Council calls for improved access to quality mental healthcare and treatment. It emphasizes the need for a shift from hospital-centred services to comprehensive, integrated mental health and social care services in community-based settings.
Addressing Mental Health Across All Policies: The conclusions invite Member States to place mental health as an integral part of various policy areas, including employment, education, digitalization, social protection, and urban planning.
Supporting Vulnerable Groups: Special attention is given to vulnerable and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, including children, young people, older people, LGBTI persons, and refugees, highlighting the interconnected nature of these factors as well as the need for inclusive mental health strategies.
Promoting Mental Health Awareness and Education: The Council encourages the improvement of mental health literacy from an early age and the development of person-centred mental health systems that empower individuals. It encourages the understanding of mental health issues, raising awareness and promoting the exchange of best practices. At the same time, it explicitly calls for “increased efforts to combat discrimination, hate speech and any form of violence”.
Encouraging EU-wide Cooperation: The Council invites Member States and the Commission to continue working towards a comprehensive approach to mental health, including cooperation in exchanging experiences and best practices. It underlines the significant input of people with lived experience and the necessity to integrate their knowledge into mental health training, reforms, research, and policy development.
The Council’s Conclusions represent a significant commitment to improving mental health across the EU, recognising it as a crucial aspect of overall well-being and societal health. GAMIAN-Europe welcomes these conclusions as a step for a more integrated and proactive approach to mental health, acknowledging the importance of patients’ voices in all stages of this coordinated response across multiple sectors and policy areas.
The organisation will continue its campaign for a full EU-wide Strategy, coordinated by the European Commission by means of decidated internal structures and resources and will make use of the upcoming EU elections to make its voice and views heard.