The European Brain Council (EBC) and its member organisations, particularly those in the field of mental health, welcome the European Commission’s communication on a ‘comprehensive approach to mental health’ launched on Wednesday, 7 June 2023.

“The European Brain Council (EBC) welcomes the European Commission’s new strategic approach to mental health,” comments EBC President, Prof. Suzanne Dickson. “The cross-sectoral approach across the life-span that the European Code on Mental Health and the Joint Ecosystem for Brain Research advance has the potential to accelerate collaborative brain research in the EU and is a great boost to the work the EBC has been spearheading in this area with the European Brain Research Area (EBRA) initiatives. EBC will do everything it can to help the Commission to make the strategy a reality. It’s important to note, however, that progress towards new therapies and innovation will require much investment in research into basic and clinical research.”

The Communication’s three guiding principles (prevention, access to healthcare and treatment and inclusion) covering the life-span strongly resonate with EBC’s research, policy, and advocacy work featured in its EU funded projects like EBRA (in particular the Prevention of Severe Mental Disorders – PSMD cluster), its health economics and outcomes research such as the Value of Treatment for brain disorders in Europe or Rethinking the management of brain disorders (in particular, Rethinking Schizophrenia). Each of these develops concrete policy priorities around brain health and presents a consensus on what needs to be achieved in the continued quest to improve the lives of those living with brain conditions, present and future, mental and neurological alike.

Building on its research, policy and advocacy work, EBC has thus great expectations regarding the Communication’s flagship (5) that looks at developing a European Code for Mental Health. Equally, the Flagship (6) that looks at developing a Joint Ecosystem for Brain Research bringing researchers and stakeholders together to facilitate and coordinate activities to maximise EU and Member States research investments, is fully in line with EBRA’s Shared European Brain Research Agenda (SEBRA) that provide solid recommendations for the EU and national research programmes in the brain area.

However, it is felt that despite the laudable turn of focus and prioritisation on mental health at the EU level, the urgent need for biological, mechanistic research into disease mechanisms and treatment remains under-represented and missing in the overall strategy. The community is keen to better understand how exactly the strategic plan can translate for supporting discovery and innovation towards new therapies to lessen the burden of mental health disease.

“The European Commission’s communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health recognises the burden of mental health disorders for European citizens and proposes a number of initiatives that could, if targeting the right unmet needs, foster more concrete action,” continued EBC Executive Director, Frédéric Destrebecq. “We stand as key partners to ensure these actions are now implemented at EU and national level and duly monitored. The Joint Ecosystem for Brain Research could help make progress towards new treatments and prevention strategies and must be flanked by substantial investments in innovative collaborative translational research.”

EBC will address a number of these issues on the occasion of its Brain Innovation Days, to be held in Brussels on 26-27 October this year. In doing so, EBC is keen to join forces with relevant stakeholders to make progress on brain health in the EU and contribute to the development of a Joint Ecosystem on Brain Research.