Brussels, 5 December 2006
Mental health: Commission releases report about Green paper consultation and publishes Eurobarometer survey
Today the Commission published a report about the results of a consultation on a European Commission Green paper on Mental Health, launched in October 2005. On the same occasion, it presented the results of an Eurobarometer survey on mental wellbeing. The survey indicates that 13% of respondents have sought psychological help over the last 12 months. 7% of EU citizens have been treated for psychological or emotional problems with medication, while those in psychotherapy average 3% and in hospital 1%. Women, the elderly, the retired and house persons are most likely to feel unwell, both physically and emotionally. Mental ill health has high negative effects on working life and social relations. Stigma is not overwhelming but significant: 37% of respondents think that people with psychological problems constitute a danger to others. Most respondents to the consultation called for an EU mental health strategy, to foster mental health prevention and promotion and combat stigma.
“The importance of mental health needs to be better recognised. Good mental health of the population is a precondition for the EU’s success in the knowledge economy. The situation of those with mental health problems is an indicator of the level of inclusiveness of EU societies”, said Markos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.
Mental health in Europe
Mental health problems affect every fourth European citizen at least once during life. They are now one of the major public health challenges in the EU. The economic and social consequences are significant: mental health problems cause an estimated loss of 3-4% of the EU’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Only every fifth of those with severe mental disorders is in paid employment, compared to 65 % of those with a physical disability.
The need for a mental health strategy
In its consultative Green paper “Improving the mental health of the population. Towards a strategy on mental health for the EU” of October 2005, the European Commission proposed the development of a comprehensive strategy on mental health at EU level. The report published today summarises the 234 responses received by the Commission. The responses welcomed the Green Paper and called for increased attention and priority on mental health. Most respondents supported the development of a mental health strategy.
A consistent cross-sector approach to mental health
The respondents advised that the emphasis be put on mental health promotion and prevention, as well as on enhancing the situation of those with mental health problems through reducing stigma and discrimination. To do that, the implications of other sectors' policies on mental health should be better considered in policy making and implementation, and appropriate tools further elaborated. It was also noted that there were substantial needs for improvement in mental health care. Increased exchange and collaboration between Member States was recommended. Many research needs were identified, as well as the need for improved links between research and policy-making.
The Eurobarometer survey: feeling blue?
Women, the elderly, the retired and persons working at home (the categories that are also likely to overlap) more often say they experience considerable limitations to physical health as well as negative feelings about their mental well-being.
Professional and social problems
Three in five Europeans (60%) have never had problems with social activities such as visiting friends or relatives due to emotional problems. Nevertheless, 40% of those respondents who have either looked for psychological help or received psychological treatment declared that they have difficulties with work and social activities as a result of either physical or psychological health problems, and 21 % said they had missed work days over the preceding four weeks.
Care and treatment
Out of those who have been treated for psychological problems, 84% have taken medication, 40% have been seeing a psychotherapist and 17% have been treated in hospital. Among respondents who have sought psychological help, 41% have taken medication, 23% have received psychotherapy and 9% have been admitted to hospital. When Europeans are feeling bad they would turn to a family member (53%) or a health professional (50%). About a quarter seek more support from a friend (22%).
In general, Europeans appear to have a tolerant way of perceiving those who have psychological or emotional health problems. However, 37% of respondents think that people with psychological problems constitute a danger to others. A minority, 21%, believes that people with psychological or emotional health problems will never recover and 14% of respondents maintain that those who have psychological problems should blame themselves for their condition. The majority (63%) believes that people with mental health problems are unpredictable. Those who have personal experiences of mental health problems tend to perceive people with psychological difficulties in a more empathetic way.
The new report on the consultation on mental health is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/life_style/mental_health_en.htm
 COM (2005) 484 final of 14 October 2005