Let’s put mental health at the heart of EU policy making

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Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) implored for action from the European Commission to develop a comprehensive EU Mental Health Strategy

The Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing and the MEP Alliance for Mental Health jointly called upon the European Commission to develop a European Union (EU) Mental Health Strategy.

During the debate, they urged the Commission to respond to the invitation by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) Council Conclusions on the Economy of Well-being on 24 October 2019 to “propose a Mental Health Strategy for the Union, taking into account the cross-sectoral impacts of different policies on mental health.”

Creating sustainable mental health policies

This would mean that the EU can help to improve the lives of millions of Europeans – both those affected by mental illness and their families and contribute to a stronger economy, social cohesion and sustainable development.

How to ensure that mental health-friendly policies across all sectors play a key role in the wellbeing of Europeans was at the centre of the debate on 18. Feb ‘Shaping the Future EU Mental Health Strategy’ in the European Parliament.

The meeting gathered MEPs and EU-level and national stakeholders to discuss how to integrate a range of social determinants of mental health such as employment, education and housing and to progress with the EU-level action.

Mental health should be treated as a separate issue

The event’s host Alex Agius Saliba MEP (S&D, Malta) said: “In previous years, the Commission paid specific attention to mental health and took various concrete initiatives. Currently, however, the Commission addresses mental health as part of its chronic disease activities. This lack of specific attention is not acceptable.

“The increasing prevalence, burden and impact of mental ill-health needs to be addressed in all its aspects. Fortunately, the recent Finnish Presidency Council Conclusions and EPSCO Council conclusions now provide a genuine opportunity to develop a comprehensive EU Mental Health Strategy.”

Removing the stigma around mental health

Alvina Alametsä MEP (Greens/EFA, Finland) said: “The role of the EU is instrumental in shaping positive mental health of its society. To do it effectively, the EU needs a clear strategy for mental health. The new European Commission can provide a fresh impetus and steer the development of a European mental health strategy together with the Member States and the European Parliament.”

Tilly Metz MEP (Greens/EFA, Luxembourg) concluded: “We are in full agreement with the words of EU Health Commissioner Kyriakides, who during her hearing in this Parliament promised to work across the whole Commission and place mental health high on the political agenda. We must act now, and we must act together to make sure that Commissioner Kyriakides delivers on her promise to give mental health the attention it deserves”

During his intervention at the European Parliament event, John F Ryan, Director of Public Health at DG Sante provided an overview of the past action of European Commission but did not specifically commit to putting in place a Strategy at this moment of time.

The event received overwhelming support; a clear demonstration of the keen interest of key stakeholders to move forward on this issue.

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