Policy Study

21/03/2023

Demand for an EU mental health strategy existed before the pandemic but has intensified since. This policy study explores the need for that strategy, given the increased prevalence of mental health conditions, and the corresponding demand for services and cross-national concerns about mental health in Europe.

This policy study examines mental health systems in France, Ireland and Poland, the scale of mental health issues that have arisen during the pandemic and the extent to which marginalised and at-risk groups receive targeted support. In the context of these findings, it considers the need for an EU-wide strategy for mental health systems to meet these challenges and build resilience in EU communities.

Policy brief by Gerry Mitchell

This policy brief analyses the current provision of mental health services in France, Ireland and Poland. In light of these findings, it considers the need for an EU-wide strategy for mental health.

Mental health is recognised both as an intrinsic human right and as an invaluable resource by the EU. The increased prevalence of mental health conditions is of concern across member states. However, this research finds that mental health sectors in all three countries lack resilience and do not have the capacity to respond to the subsequent rise in demand for services. They are characterised by underinvestment, a focus on hospital treatments with a lack of primary and community provision, workforce crises, and a range of barriers to access. All share a systemic failure to acknowledge the social determinants of mental health in policymaking and to address mental health inequalities.

To tackle these challenges, we endorse the calls for an EU mental health strategy: with a “whole of government” and “mental health in all policies” approach that addresses the social determinants of mental health; invests in community and primary sector provision; builds the knowledge and mental health literacy of employers across sectors; improves the working rights and conditions of staff in the mental health sector; and promotes the importance of investing in activities that expand social contact and build confidence and trust in order to mitigate the risk of further mental health inequalities.

These case studies attracted media attention:

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