Patrice Boyer – Vice President of EBC
Today, two thirds of mental health disorders start developing before the age of 30. Early detection is key to address this, both in terms of research and care. This demonstrates how closely interdependent research and healthcare systems are in addressing the issues at stake in the field of mental health.
It is therefore an absolute priority to disseminate this information, as widely as possible within the European Union, bearing in mind the important diversity and heterogeneity of practices amongst European countries.
What is more, many physicians across Europe are not convinced of the importance of prevention practices and show reluctance to carry out such checkups, as they are scared of “false positive” diagnoses.
In this respect, the primary action that should be undertaken is a better training of doctors, in order to raise their awareness on the importance of early detection and early intervention: the longer the delay between disease onset and treatment, the poorer the prognosis. Together with early detection, prevention is one of the key issues of mental health care. People at risk for mental disorders are more vulnerable than other to social stressors, to negative environmental factors and to the detrimental use of drugs and alcohol. In consequence, information also needs to be disseminated on how to best protect vulnerable people. Moreover, support of media should be sought, as mental health is a much stigmatized topic; people tend not to seek support as much as they should, just as governments are not supporting mental health research as they should.
In the course of our meeting with Commissioner Andriukaitis, we have underlined these priorities as underpinning the “4 Ps” program that the Commission is currently promoting to the Member States: prevention, protection, promotion and participation. Commissioner Andriukaitis also stressed that a larger collaboration with other Directorate Generals was necessary, particularly in the field of prevention (e.g. to limit the use of alcohol and tobacco). Too often, time is missing to take efficient and consensual measures.

When meeting with the Commissioner, we have reiterated the European Brain Council’s commitment, with the support from the European Commission, to raising awareness on the importance of early diagnosis and to fighting the false ideas spread regarding mental health. This should be carried out both at European and national level, to help physicians locally. The various Members of EBC are able to provide meaningful support to the Commission to work and disseminate the “4Ps” program. For example, as far as mental health is concerned, national psychiatric associations – that are members of the EPA (European Psychiatric Association) – can play an active role in implementing the program for each of the countries. The same can be done for other brain diseases (stroke, brain trauma etc., where prevention and information about the main risk factors are crucial) through close co-operation with all the Members Societies of EBC (EAN, EANS, ECNP, EPA, FENS). An active collaboration between all components of EBC (scientific groups as well as patients associations) seems to be the best way to implement what is currently elaborated by the Commission.

Finally, addressing issues regarding mental and brain health is very often more a matter of political will than a financial one. Simple instruments and tools can be used not only for prevention, but many times as efficient treatment as well (physical exercise for example).

The Commissioner fully agreed with all the above mentioned priorities and expressed the wish to know better what the profiles of the different Member States are in term of indicators for chronic diseases and suggested that an EU action plan be elaborated and discussed regarding this topic.

Our forthcoming Board Meeting will enable Members of EBC to consider these promising outcomes of our meeting with Mr Andriukaitis. Together with the members of EBC’s Executive, we are keen to bringing this forward and becoming key partners of the Commission in defining this new strategy. We should convene an ad hoc working party for that purpose in order to be best able to contribute actively.

Patrice Boyer
Vice-President of EBC