On 12 December 2023, the European Parliament adopted oan own-initiative report on mental health. The document, negotiated in the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Health, was backed by a large majority of 482 votes in favour, 94 against and 32 abstentions.
The text aims to improve the Commission’s initiative “A Global Approach to Mental Health”, in which it calls for a paradigm shift in this area: the structural causes of mental ill-health can no longer be denied and need to be addressed from a psychosocial perspective.
The Parliament has welcomed this Commission initiative, but calls in this new report for more direct funding to address the growing mental health problems in Europe and a clear action plan with clear targets to identify high-risk populations and effective action by public authorities.
The chapter where most work has gone into shaping the Commission’s text is the financial chapter. While Parliament welcomes the €765 million available to support research and innovation through the Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe programmes, it also calls for new initiatives beyond existing programmes and a direct fund for research and innovation in mental health.
Mental health problems have been on the rise especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the European Commission, one in six EU citizens claimed to have mental health problems before the pandemic, while last year, one in two people claimed to have an emotional or psychosocial problem.
In response to these data, the European Parliament advocates the need for a clear and targeted strategy on mental health, going beyond a simple “approach” and a European Year of Mental Health to raise awareness, fight discrimination, stigmatisation and social exclusion. Member States are called upon to develop corresponding national strategies with clear timetables, adequate budgets, concrete targets and indicators to assess progress. Member States are also called upon to prioritise and improve access to mental health services for vulnerable groups, such as children, adolescents, young adults, LGTBIQA+ people, patients with chronic diseases and disabilities, the elderly, migrants and ethnic minorities.
The report stresses that all EU citizens must have access to affordable and accessible quality mental health services. It also underlines the need to ensure greater investment in public health and to address the shortage of a skilled and adequately trained mental health workforce.
This is the first time that the European institutions, both the European Commission and the European Parliament, have presented specific reports and initiatives on Mental Health at European level, recognising that it is time to prioritise the emotional well-being of citizens and to address the mental health problems that increasingly affect the population.