MEPs warn against upcoming ‘global mental health crisis’

A group of MEPs calls for a change as mental health is often overshadowed by other diseases. [SHUTTERSTOCK/Halfpoint]

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictive measures that worsened the mental well-being of European citizens, the EU has no comprehensive plan to tackle this pressing issue. A group of MEPs are calling for change as mental health is often overshadowed by other diseases.

“Around 16% of the European population faced mental health problems before the COVID-19 pandemic. That number has doubled in the last two years, making it one of the fastest-growing health problems today,” said Czech MEP from Christian Democrats and also a co-chair of the parliamentarian Alliance for Mental Health, Tomáš Zdechovský, to EURACTIV.cz

The MEP Alliance for Mental Health was established in 2009 as the European Parliament Interest Group on Mental Health, Wellbeing and Brain Disorders. Its aim is to bring together MEPs and stakeholders advocating for the development of EU policies that contribute to the prevention of mental ill-health. 

“According to many leading experts, it is the pandemic of the global mental health crisis that follows the COVID-19 pandemic,” Zdechovský pointed out. 

A July 2020 European Parliament resolution called on the European Commission to draw up a mental health action plan for 2021-2027 but no such plan has been published yet. 

“Given the impact of the global pandemic, we need a coordinated EU approach to mental health. It is time for the Commission to present a comprehensive document that will address concrete actions and recommendations,” said Zdechovský.

The European Commission’s DG SANTE has set up a network in its Health Policy Platform to discuss mental health practices related to the pandemic. Moreover, the EU budget is funding mental health reforms and research projects in several EU Member States.

However, lawmakers claim that these activities are not enough.

“At the moment, mental health governance is fragmented across the EU, and yet building synergies would be so beneficial for everyone,” added Czech S&D MEP, Radka Maxová, who also co-chairs the MEP Alliance for Mental Health. 

COVID-19 effects on mental health will be felt for years to come, warn researchers

COVID-19 has created a “parallel pandemic” of mental health issues that will be felt long after tackling coronavirus, new research warns, with younger people bearing the brunt across the EU.

Cost of mental health issues – €600 billion per year 

Lawmakers warn that the rise of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues affects not only the lives of citizens but the European economy as well. According to Zdechovský, socio-economic costs associated with mental health issues are estimated to exceed €600 billion a year, which is more than 4% of the EU’s GDP. 

“Poor mental health leads to significant economic costs due to lower productivity and social and health expenditures. It is a comprehensive strategy at the EU level that could take into account the cross-sectoral impact of different policy measures on mental health and help us emerge stronger from the coronavirus crisis by boosting employment and resilience in society,” Czech MEP Maxová added. 

Mental health will be among the priorities of the Czech EU Presidency in the second half of 2022. Moreover, Czech MEPs are keen to ensure that mental health receives the attention it deserves at European level next year, as they advocate for 2023 to become the European Year of Mental Health – an idea pushed by the European mental health organisation GAMIAN-Europe.

In recent written responses to MEPs, the Commission stated that funding of research projects or support for EU Member States health policies is a greater priority than the European Year for Mental Health initiative. 

COVID-19 hit mental health of French students hard – report

France’s students have reported an increase in anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as suicidal thoughts during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study by France’s national health and medical research institute (INSERM) and the University of Bordeaux published on Tuesday (9 November) has found. EURACTIV France reports.

Vulnerable youth

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 67% of people say they do not get the mental health support they need. The inaccessibility of mental health care has broadened during the pandemic due to limited social contacts.

For example, in Czechia, several new projects tackling this issue emerged during the pandemic, including free online expert services or webinars about mental health. Among the leading examples is “My Mental Health Guide”, a website developed by experts from the Czech National Institute of Mental Health, where people can get tested for a mental disorder for free via a simple questionnaire.

The pandemic particularly affected the younger generation in terms of mental health. According to the OECD’s report from May 2021, the incidence of mental health problems among young people between 15-24 years doubled during the pandemic in most countries.

Irish government to fund therapy to tackle pandemic mental health impact

A €1 million government fund will provide free talking therapy for people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced on Tuesday.

The funding is part of the broader €10 million allocated for mental health in Ireland’s current budget and will …

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe