On July 28, on the occasion of the informal EPSCO Council, EBC joined 5 organisations active in the area of mental health representing mental health professionals, patients, carers and brain researchers, to call on the Spanish Presidency to consider proposing concrete EU-level action on mental health.

This call is issued against the background of the recent Commission Communication entitled ‘A comprehensive approach to mental health’, adopted on 7 June; this provides the right context for in-depth reflection on what would be required to improve mental health and prevent mental ill-health on the ground. Action is clearly needed, as currently, in the EU, one in four people is affected by mental health issues.

While the signatory organisations have welcomed the Communication as it signifies an explicit commitment to addressing mental health inclusively and holistically, it is felt that the initiative could be taken one step further to ensure that it will indeed trigger the required action.

More specifically, the organisations asked the Council to call on the Commission to come forward with a proposal for Member States to put in place national action programmes on mental health and well-being. These action plans should strive to address the full range of mental (ill) health-related priorities, i.e. prevention of mental ill health, good mental health promotion , treatment, care and cure, and should be coordinated at the EU level.

‘This request is not without precedent’, said GAMIAN-Europe President Péter Kéri. ‘It is based on the 2013 Council Conclusions inviting Member States to develop strategies and/or action plans on mental health’. National action programmes have also been successfully put in place in the areas of rare disorders and cancer.

‘The Council should consider novel ideas when tackling mental health’ added Suzanne Dickson, President of the European Brain Council. ‘The establishment of an EU Policy Lab for mental health – recently presented at a European Parliament public hearing on EU action on mental health and warmly welcomed by MEPs present, could be such an idea.

The signatory organisations offered their support and collaboration in developing the aims, framework and content for the national action programmes. In addition, they look forward to the Council’s support of their proposal, involving all relevant players in order to collectively shape the required answers to this major societal challenge.

EBC welcomes the press statement made by Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides after the Informal Meeting of Health Ministers in Las Palmas on July 28. The 20 flagship actions mentioned by the Commissioner, ranging from improving mental health promotion, prevention, intervention, access to treatment and care to quality of life, which will be backed by over €1,2 billion in EU funding, are a move in the right direction.

Listening to mental health professionals, patients, carers, and brain researchers, and making them a real part of the discussion is of the utmost importance in the quest to properly address, prioritise and improve improve the mental health of European citizens.

Furthermore, EBC finds the leadership Spain is currently demonstrating in the prioritisation of mental health at the European level pivotal. Its willingness to make raising the stigma associated with mental disorders a priority, and the recent update of its national mental health plan send encouraging signals, particularly in the light of Spain’s ongoing Presidency of the Council of the European Union. These initiatives clearly align with EBC’s call to elaborate structured action plans on mental health for all EU member states.