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Public Health

Health-EU newsletter 258 - Focus

A healthy frame of mind: European Commission action on mental health

John F. Ryan, Director of the European Commission Directorate for Public Health, talks about the Commission’s work in the field of mental health, including a new Joint Action in Mental Health and a new stakeholders’ group on the EU Health Policy Platform that specifically addresses mental health issues in light of COVID-19.

What is the cost of poor mental health on society?

Two years ago, we dedicated a chapter on mental health in our Report on the State of Health in the EU. It included sobering data on the cost of mental ill-health to our citizens and society. Mental health problems affect some 84 million people across the EU: more than one in six citizens! In total, we spend over EUR 600 billion, more than 4% of our GDP, on the consequences of mental ill-health, but only a third of this reflects direct spending on health care. We pay a much bigger price indirectly, through lost employment and productivity, and in additional social security spending. On a brighter note, investing in people’s well-being builds a strong foundation for more sustainable long-term economic growth, as well as for the overall health of our citizens!

How long has the Commission been active in mental health?

Our involvement goes back nearly two decades. Our first ‘Green Paper’ stressed the importance of promoting mental health for all, addressing mental ill health, and improving the quality of life of people with mental ill health or disability. It also proposed developing a mental health information, research and knowledge system for the EU. Since then, we have supported many initiatives, collaborating with experts, civil society and policy makers across our Member States. We have been able to gather knowledge and good practices, especially in key areas like the prevention of depression and suicide, mental health in all policies, workplace and school setting initiatives, the role of e-health, and community based services.

How is the Commission helping now?

We support Member States in their efforts to promote mental health and well-being, prevent mental ill health, and provide timely access to good quality services. This really is at the core of what we do. We want to make a real difference, based on what we know works best, saving Member States having to reinvent the wheel and allowing them to focus on getting things done. We identify good practices with the help of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre, ask health ministries which are most relevant and support the implementation of those practices in areas that Member States have identified as a priority.

In the field of mental health, we selected four specific practices from the initiatives we supported in previous years. We can now co-fund their wider implementation through the Health Programme, contributing up to 8.4 million Euros. As we speak, a Joint Action on Mental Health is taking shape and applications for two projects are being evaluated.

We also work hard to support stakeholders in their effort to tackle the impact of COVID19 on mental health. This is a major challenge, and one that will remain with us for quite some time. The pandemic affects us all in different ways, but we all need to come to terms with the pressures of lockdown, social isolation, and worries about our health and that of our loved ones.

That’s why we created a space within our Health Policy Platform for stakeholder organisations to come together and share their concerns about the burden of the pandemic on mental health, and to exchange mental health practice and knowledge. The results of the work of over 60 participants will be shared via webinars hosted by the Health Policy Platform, with the first one planned for later this month.

Activities at EU level

Mental Health

European Commission – Health and Food Safety


Webinar on challenges and new approaches to tackle the mental health impact of COVID-19 to be held 16 October

The webinar will be hosted on the Health Policy Platform and led by the Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety and Mental Health Europe as coordinator of the network group on the mental health impact of COVID-19.

New thematic network on COVID-19: mental health support set up on the EU Health Policy Platform

This network for European non-profit organisations provides a place to share knowledge and practices on COVID19-related mental health issues, and to develop a set of guidance documents to help address the mental health aspects of the COVID19-pandemic. Request access on the platform.

First European Mental Health Week held 4 to 10 May 2020

Mental Health Europe launched the first European mental health awareness week under the motto ‘Together we can make it’ to highlight the importance of mental health during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.

Most recent results from Eurofound’s ‘Living, working and COVID-19’ survey reveals alarming cumulative social and economic impact of the pandemic on people’s lives

Young people, and those out of work, report the lowest levels of well-being, despite some improvement since the onset of the pandemic. While life satisfaction and optimism rose since April, young people still feel excluded from society and remain at greatest risk of depression.

World Mental Health Day 2020 focuses on ‘Mental Health for All: Greater Investment, Greater Access’

This global event is organised by the World Federation for Mental Health with the aim of coming closer to the goal of making mental health care a reality for all, with key emphasis on awareness, advocacy, accessibility and action.

WHO/Europe to establish a mental health coalition to support system reforms and COVID-19 recovery

WHO Europe has launched a new flagship initiative on mental health, which will bring together a broad coalition of mental health leaders, champions, service users and other partners to improve mental health policies and practices.

Marketplace workshop on mental health best practices and implementable research results

A marketplace workshop showcasing best practices and implementable research results in the field of mental health took place in the premises of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy.

Health Programme Projects

New Joint Action on Mental Health being developed and projects being evaluated

Calls have now closed. Proposals are under evaluation and being developed to support for the implementation of best practices in the area of mental health through the 2020 Work Plan of the EU Health Programme.

Other interesting links

Eurostat: Mental Health and related issues statistics

Did you know that 3.7 % of all deaths in the EU in 2016 resulted from mental and behavioural disorders? Find more mental health-related statistics on the Eurostat dedicated webpage.