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European Commission's Mental Health Initiative - what is it, why now, and why should you care?


The Mental Health Awareness Month just ended and we have more news coming up. June 2023 presents an important moment for those calling on the European Union to prioritise mental health. Wondering why? The first thorough approach to mental health will be presented by the European Commission. Here is what to expect.

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Alex Q t
Alex Quinn

Young people across the EU have overwhelmingly raised the demand to prioritise mental health and break the stigma around it. The proposed initiative should finally put mental health at the centre of EU policy-making.

It's about time. The European Commission's proposal comes at a time when mental health problems have been soaring. Prior to Covid-19, more than 84 million people in the EU were affected by mental illness. That's 1 in 6 people, a figure that has significantly increased since the pandemic. Young people have been disproportionately affected: half of all young Europeans now report poor mental health, and depression among them has more than doubled. This is significantly higher than the general population.

What are some of the key factors impacting young people's mental health?

Employers often provide poor working conditions. Uncertain working times and inadequate pay are more common for young people. At the same time, limited access to social welfare benefits such as unemployment assistance and minimum income add further insecurity to their lives. We need not look any further than the fact that 1 in 4 young people in the EU are at risk of poverty to get a sense of how these factors interact.

Years of insufficient mental health investment have not helped. As the Director of Mental Health Europe, Claudia Marinetti said, ‘with an increasing number of young people reporting mental health problems and unmet health needs, attention given to youth mental health is more crucial than ever.’

Improving well-being requires addressing the root causes of poor mental health. It demands real changes in the material conditions of people’s lives - housing, fair work, and social welfare can not remain separated from questions of mental health and well-being. This is why the European Commission’s mental health initiative is so important.

Here’s 3 things you should know ahead of the initiative’s publication on June 7:

  1. It explicitly mentions the need to move away from placing the responsibility on individuals and to address the broader structural, socio-economic, and environmental factors impacting our mental health.
  2. It aims to integrate mental health into all relevant EU policies.
  3. The initiative also explicitly mentions the need for adequate investment in mental health community infrastructures and will set out to remind member states of the cost of underinvestment.

Improving the mental health of young people across the EU will require closing the gap between policy theory and action. Let’s hope that the European Commission’s upcoming initiative gets it right and that young people’s mental health sees an actual improvement. At the European Youth Forum, we will monitor the developments to make sure that the perspective of young people is always included.

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Let's shape a better life and brighter future for young people by speaking up about mental health. Everyone needs and deserves access to mental health care. Are you ready to take action? Join us for the European Mental Health Week!