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Green Paper on Mental Health

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With this Green Paper, the Commission is launching a wide debate on mental health. The idea is to hold a public consultation on how to improve the management of mental illness and promote mental well-being in the European Union.

ACT

Commission Green Paper of 14 October 2005 - "Improving the mental health of the population - Towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union" [COM(2005) 484 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Current situation

Mental health is a growing challenge for the European Union (EU). It is estimated that mental health problems affect more than one in four adults in Europe and are the cause of the majority of the 58 000 annual deaths from suicide, an act which takes more lives than road traffic accidents.

The most common forms of mental ill health * are anxiety disorders and depression. According to some studies, by the year 2020 depression may be the highest ranking cause of disease in the developed world.

3.Stigmatisation is still a real problem for those suffering from mental illness. People with mental ill health or disability meet fear and prejudice from others, which increases personal suffering and social exclusion.

In economic terms, mental ill health costs the EU the equivalent of 3 to 4% of GDP because of lost productivity and additional burdens on the health, social, educational and justice systems.

There are significant inequalities between Member States in relation to mental health *. Suicide rates, for example, range from 3.6 per 100 000 population in Greece to 44 per 100 000 in Lithuania, the highest in the world. In addition, the number of involuntary placements in psychiatric institutions is 40 times higher in Finland than in Portugal.

The need for an EU strategy on mental health

Establishing a strategy on mental health at EU level would add value by:

  • creating a framework for exchange and cooperation between Member States;
  • helping to increase the coherence of actions in different policy sectors;
  • opening up a platform for involving stakeholders in building solutions.

The Commission proposes that an EU strategy could focus on the following aspects:

  • promoting the mental health of all;
  • addressing mental ill health through preventive action;
  • improving the quality of life of people with mental ill health or disability through social inclusion and the protection of their rights and dignity;
  • developing a mental health information, research and knowledge system for the EU.

Three areas of action envisaged

The Green Paper proposes three main areas of action at EU level:

  1. Creating a Dialogue with Member States on Mental Health.
    One objective is to identify priorities for an action plan on mental health. This dialogue should also consider the need for the two proposed Council Recommendations on the promotion of mental health and the reduction of depression and suicidal behaviour.
  2. Launching an EU Platform on Mental Health.
    The Platform would bring together a wide range of stakeholders in order to develop recommendations for action and examine ways of promoting the social inclusion of people with mental ill health and disability.
  3. Building up mental health information resources at EU level by developing an indicator system that would include information on mental health and its determinants and impact.

Next steps

All interested citizens, parties and organisations are invited to share their comments on this Green Paper.

In late 2006 the Commission will present its analysis of the responses received together with, if appropriate, its proposals for a strategy on mental health for the EU.

Background

The Green Paper is part of the Commission's response to the WHO European Ministerial Conference on Mental Health held in Helsinki in January 2005. The Conference created strong political commitment for mental health and established a framework for comprehensive action. It invited the European Commission to contribute to implementing this framework for action. This Green Paper is an initial response to that invitation.

Key terms used in the act

The WHO describes mental health as: "a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community".
Mental ill health includes mental health problems and strain, impaired functioning associated with stress, symptoms of dementia and diagnosable mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression.

RELATED ACTS

Council conclusions of 3 June 2005 on a Community action in the field of mental health [Not published in the Official Journal].
In these conclusions, the Council calls on the Member States and the Commission to take measures to provide information on mental health, promote its importance and pre-empt mental disorders.

Conclusions of the "Employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs" Council of 2 and 3 June 2003 on combating stigma and discrimination in relation to mental health.
In these conclusions, the Council stresses the impact of problems associated with stigma and discrimination in relation to mental illness. The Council thus calls for specific measures to improve social inclusion and to tackle discrimination and stigma.

Council conclusions of 15 November 2001 on combating stress and depression-related problems [Official Journal C 6 of 09.01.2002].
In these conclusions, the Council calls for the implementation of actions to prevent stress and depression-related problems and to promote mental health.

Council resolution of 18 November 1999 on the promotion of mental health [Official Journal C 86 of 24.03.2000].

Last updated: 04.01.2006
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