Written by Laurence Amand-Eeckhout.
The purpose of World Mental Health Day is to improve knowledge, raise awareness and mobilise efforts in support of mental health around the world. This year’s theme, ‘Mental health is a universal human right’, underlines that a mental health condition should never be a reason to deprive a person of their human rights.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ‘mental health’ as a state of mental well-being in which people cope well with the many stresses of life, can realise their potential, can function productively and fruitfully, and are able to contribute to their communities. Multiple individual, social and structural factors may combine to protect or undermine mental health. Individual psychological and biological factors such as emotional skills, substance use and genetics can make people more vulnerable. Exposure to unfavourable social, economic, geopolitical and environmental circumstances (such as the pandemic, rising living costs, conflicts and war) also increases people’s risk of experiencing poor mental health.
World Mental Health Day was first celebrated on 10 October in 1992 on the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health. The theme of World Mental Health Day 2023 – ‘Mental health is a universal human right‘ – is geared towards improving knowledge, raising awareness and driving actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right. This includes the right to be protected from mental health risks, the right to available, accessible, acceptable, and good-quality care, and the right to liberty, independence and inclusion in the community.
Facts and figures
According to the WHO, in 2019 one in every eight people, or 970 million people around the world, were living with a mental disorder, with anxiety and depression the most common. In the EU, in that same year before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health problems affected around 84 million people (1 in 6), and those figures have only worsened since. The pandemic put additional pressure on mental health, particularly among young people and categories at risk, such as the elderly and people in vulnerable situations.
EU action on mental health
Policies and services addressing mental health are the individual EU Member States’ responsibility. However, according to Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the EU complements national policies while also fostering cooperation between Member States. The EU’s work on mental health, part of its activities on non-communicable diseases, is geared towards supporting action on the ground and promoting the exchange of best practice and knowledge. On 7 June 2023, responding to calls from the European Parliament and from citizens in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the European Commission adopted a communication on a new comprehensive approach to mental health, adding another pillar to the European health union. According to that approach, EU action on mental health will focus on three guiding principles. Every EU citizen should have access to adequate and effective prevention, access to high-quality and affordable mental healthcare and treatment, and be able to reintegrate into society after recovery.
|The European Parliament has consistently supported the promotion of good mental health and putting mental health at the heart of EU policymaking, through numerous opinions, studies, debates, written questions and own-initiative resolutions. Its Subcommittee on Public Health (SANT) held a hearing on young people’s mental health on 29 June 2023 and is currently preparing an own-initiative report on mental health (rapporteur: Sara Cerdas, S&D, Portugal). A debate on the draft report took place on 19 September 2023, and focused notably on prevention, accessibility of mental health services, early diagnosis, treatment, and the social integration of people with mental health conditions in the community.|
Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘World Mental Health Day 2023: 10 October‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.