24th Feb 2024

EU Commission wants better focus on mental health care

  • The EU Commission said mental health problems already impacted around 84 million people before the Covid-19 pandemic — with an economic cost of about €600bn a year, or four percent of the bloc's GDP (Photo: Damir Samatkulov)
Listen to article

The EU Commission said on Wednesday (6 June) it would set aside €1.23bn from the EU budget for mental health initiatives across the 27-member bloc.

"We need to break down stigma and discrimination so that those in need can reach out and receive the support they need," health commissioner Stella Kyriakides, said, as the EU executive presented its mental health initiatives.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"It is ok not to be ok, and it is our duty to ensure that everyone asking for help has access to it," she added.

The commission said mental health problems already impacted around 84 million people before the Covid-19 pandemic with an economic cost of about €600bn a year, or four percent of the bloc's GDP.

The situation has worsened since the pandemic with the war in Ukraine, climate change anxiety, and the rising cost of living due to soaring inflation.

The pandemic has placed additional pressures on mental health, especially among young people and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, the commission acknowledged.

Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas called it a "silent epidemic", adding the situation is worsening.

"One in six people in the EU face mental health problems, loneliness affects around one-quarter of the population, and suicide is the second leading cause of deaths of young Europeans behind road accidents," he said.

The commission wants to focus on adequate prevention, access to high-quality and affordable mental healthcare and treatment, and reintegration into society after recovery.

Schinas warned against expecting quick fixes from the EU. "There is no happiness button to push, and certainly it is not in Brussels," he said, adding the commission's initiative is the beginning of putting mental health on par with physical health.

The EU can only provide a framework as mental health and health are mainly in member state competence.

The commission plans to increase protection for children, including the impact of social media, run campaigns for mental health in the workplace, launch an initiative on European depression and suicide prevention.

It also wants to create a European Code for Mental Health, and strengthen research on brain health.

The commission, for instance, wants to allocate €10m to support the promotion of mental health in communities focusing on vulnerable groups, including children and young people and migrant and refugee populations.

The executive also plans to dedicate €6m to support the development and implementation of depression and suicide prevention policies in member states.

The commission also wants to address burnout at the workplace as around half of European workers consider stress to be common in their workplace and it contributes to around half of all lost working days.

"This is not acceptable, going to work should not make you ill," Kyriakides said, adding that the EU will promote awareness-raising and work with companies to tackle the issue.

MEP Maria Walsh, who was the negotiator of the European Parliament's initiative report on mental health and digital work which had called for a mental health strategy, said the commission should go further.

"In order to tackle mental health in an efficient way, we need cross-sectional and integrated policies that should be supplemented by national action plans," she said.

"While the exchange of best practices between member states and with stakeholders is welcomed, the commission must ensure that it reaches citizens and communities beyond the Brussels bubble of EU policymakers," Walsh added, saying there should be a report on the EU countries' capacity to deal with mental health issues.


Eleven suicides daily — Spain's not-so-silent pandemic

With the emergence of the pandemic, Spain's suicide figures have worsened, bringing to the surface the long waiting times, the lack of health personnel, and the absence of a national suicide prevention plan.

A 'silent pandemic' the EU is not prepared for

"Mental health is the silent pandemic," Irish centre-right MEP Maria Walsh, who spearheads several parliament initiatives on mental health, said, arguing that the EU needs to have a strategy implemented in "weeks, not years".


Why the EU double standards on mental help for asylum seekers?

In many EU member states, access to services is dependent on successful refugee status determination. Until then, asylum seekers may not be able to get housing, education, or jobs and can also face significant barriers to receiving psychosocial support.


Tackling young Europeans' ticking time bomb — mental health

Mental health problems among the young are on the rise. A proposal from the Spanish presidency, dated 23 June and seen by EUobserver, stresses the urgency of tackling the problem and sets out a series of policies to address it.


EU plan to let 17-year olds drive trucks is crazy

It's an astonishing proposition rooted in political interest rather than facts, with potentially dire consequences for all road users — especially for people who walk and cycle, warns the European Cycling Federation.

EU deal on new gig-workers rules unlikely before June elections

Another provisional agreement on improving working conditions for platform workers fall apart on Friday, as four member states decided not to support it — making the chances of a directive before the June European elections unlikely.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us