The European Commission has taken a significant step in addressing mental health issues by allocating 1.23 billion euros for a new strategy. With the 20 initiatives presented on June 7th, the Commission aims to combat what it refers to as a “silent European epidemic”.
In recent years, mental health problems have become a growing concern across Europe. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges, leading to a surge in anxiety, depression, suicide and mental health issues. According to the WHO World Mental Health report published in June 2022, depression and anxiety rose by 25% globally in the first year of the Covid-19, bringing the number of people living with a mental disorder to nearly one billion people. However, even before the pandemic and lockdowns, one in six people in the EU reported struggling with mental health problems, a sum of around 84 million.
The European Commission has recently made a momentous commitment to address the escalating mental health crisis by allocating a substantial budget of 1.23 billion euros for the matter. Recognizing the urgency and significance of this issue, and in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe, President von der Leyen announced a new set of initiatives on mental health in the EU. This unprecedented investment demonstrates the European Union’s commitment to prioritizing mental health and improving the well-being of its citizens.
Mental health is a precondition for a productive economy and inclusive society and goes beyond individual or family matters.European Commission
It is on the bigger interest of the European Union as a whole to fight the widespread impact of these issues and seek to address the consequences on individuals, families, and societies. Beside suffocating healthcare systems, mental health problems have clear adverse effects on employment and economic productivity. The Commission estimates that the annual cost of not intervening could reach 600 billion euros.
While member states primarily handle mental health, the Commission has identified initiatives that can provide added value. Various European budgets will be the source of funding.
EU’s action on mental health will have three guiding principles: adequate and effective prevention; access to high quality and affordable mental healthcare and treatment and reintegration into society after recovery.
Mental health or ill-health does not happen in a vacuum, it is conditioned by personal and external factors. It reflects and is influenced by the state of our society, our economy, our environment and by the state of world affairs around us.European Commission
The initiatives include measures to prevent depression and suicide, reinforcing mental health systems and improving access to treatment, establish a mental health network for young people, and allocating funds for professional training, exchange programs, and brain health research. The agenda also includes initiatives to protect young people on social media, promote wellbeing in the workplace, but also to empower older people to lead a healthy and active life.
The 1.23 billion euros investment will primarily focus on enhancing accessibility to mental health services. Many people face barriers when seeking help, including long waiting times, stigma, and limited resources. The European Commission’s initiative aims to reduce these obstacles by improving the availability of mental health support through various means, including telemedicine, online platforms, and community-based services.
Prevention and early intervention play crucial roles in mitigating the impact of mental health problems. The Commission’s investment will emphasize these aspects by promoting mental health awareness, launching targeted prevention campaigns, and implementing early intervention strategies. By identifying and addressing mental health concerns at an early stage, it’s possible to reduce the severity and duration of illnesses, build resilience and establish supportive environments for mental health.
This initiative is the beginning of a journey. It puts mental health on par with physical health. And it sets high ambitions for the EU to help the most fragile and vulnerable in our societies.Margaritis Schinas, European Commission Vice-President
To address the need of Member States for support in areas of mental health, such as workforce planning and monitoring and evaluation of mental health policy, the EU is mobilizing financial support to strengthen the Member States’ capacity to act. This includes training and upskilling healthcare professionals, establishing specialized mental health units within primary care facilities, and integrating mental health services with existing healthcare networks. By building resilient and sustainable mental health systems, the European Commission seeks to ensure that individuals receive timely and appropriate support.
This investment sends a clear message that mental health is a fundamental concern that must be addressed collectively, and it paves the way for positive change in the lives of millions across Europe.