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New EU initiative on mental health: what can we learn from it?

Oct 13, 2023 | News

Last June, the European Commission published a new initiative on a comprehensive approach to mental health. 

This initiative emphasises that mental health is an integral part of health. But how can this leitmotiv be put into practice?

Here’s a concise summary of what the European Commission is aiming for:

  1. Integrating mental health across policies: Member States are encouraged to prioritise mental health through inclusive policies, emphasising promotion, prevention, early intervention, stigma reduction, and social inclusion for those with mental health issues.
  2. Promoting good mental health, prevention and early intervention for mental health problems: Member States are advised to prioritise mental health by promoting well-being, preventing issues, and intervening early, utilising EU funding, combating stigma, and enhancing training for health and social care professionals.
  3. Boosting the mental health of children and young people: Member States are encouraged to collaborate on children and young people’s mental health policies, emphasising digital tools, prioritising children in national strategies, ensuring access to services, promoting healthy lifestyles, and participating in innovative initiatives addressing health determinants and digital impact on mental well-being.
  4. Helping those most in need: Member States are encouraged to enhance older people’s mental health through accessible digital tools, collect data on mental health in vulnerable groups, ensure equal access to quality healthcare, address specific needs of marginalised communities, and promote community-based services, especially for deinstitutionalisation.
  5. Tackling psychosocial risks at work: Member States are urged to raise awareness about mental health challenges among farmers and rural populations, supported by the common agriculture policy, and to develop prevention policies for essential workers, including health professionals, teachers, and farmers, with assistance from the EU OSHA report on psychosocial risks in the agricultural sector.
  6. Reinforcing mental health systems and improving access to treatment and care: Member States are encouraged to guarantee affordable mental healthcare, utilising telemedicine and cross-border services, collaborating on projects for improved mental health services and community care, and establishing referral pathways to mental health professionals in collaboration with other service providers.
  7. Breaking through stigma: Member States are encouraged to launch communication campaigns combating stigma, facilitate reintegration into employment, empower patients to access suitable services, and disseminate information on legal measures against discrimination, promoting awareness among decision makers, employers, healthcare professionals, and the public. Additionally, they should support community activities and policies for the integration of people with mental health issues into society and the labour market, including social economy initiatives.
  8. Fostering mental health globally: The Commission advocates a comprehensive approach to promote mental health among learners, teachers, and caregivers through education initiatives, supporting key priorities in organisations like Education Cannot Wait and the Global Partnership for Education. Mental health will be integrated into health systems at regional, national, and global levels, ensuring equal access to mental health support for refugees, displaced people, and host communities in post-emergency situations.

These are the eight main points that the European Commission is recommending in order to take care of the mental health of European citizens. Its implementation is also supported by a total funding of EUR 765 million allocated through the Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe programs, to support research and innovation projects focused on mental health.

*Source: Communication from The European Commission to The European Parliament, The Council of the European Union, European Economic and Social Committee & Le Comité européen des régions