Ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, made the following statement:
“The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its consequences, the energy crisis and worries about the economic difficulties: all these events take a toll on our mental health. Unfortunately, we see that it affects everyone across the world, starting with the most vulnerable.
In the EU, already before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health problems affected over 85 million EU citizens. The pandemic has only intensified these issues, especially for young people, those with less secure employment or lower education and incomes. We see that anxiety, loneliness and depression have significantly increased. Countless lives have been lost, livelihoods have disappeared, and realities have been irrevocably changed.
In times such as these, these difficulties can seem to have no end in sight, and with no obvious solutions. However, it is our responsibility to stand up to this task and deliver for people. We need a turning point for mental health. This means bringing effective mental health support closer to those who need support the most. This must be our priority. And mental health needs to be part of all policies to build societal resilience. This is particularly important for vulnerable groups such as children, young people, the elderly, migrants, and refugees, who have all been affected by the challenges we are facing. This is the approach the EU is taking.
As announced by President von der Leyen last month, we will chart the EU towards a more comprehensive approach to mental health that will make a difference for people, building on our on-going work. To do this, we need to not only work with key stakeholders, NGOs and healthcare professionals to develop new strategies, but most importantly, we also need to listen to the needs of our citizens and those of our health professionals who have been under immense pressure these past years. This is how we can truly make our work in the area of mental health effective.
We are already working to support European societies take better care of our mental health. We have allocated €27 million to mental health actions and have launched a new ‘Healthier Together’ initiative help tackle mental health and neurological diseases, including encouraging well-being at home, schools and at the workplace and stronger engagement in proactive prevention. We are also bringing in our work on research, education, justice, employment, social inclusion, and disabilities. This is a good start, but we can and must do more.
We know that our mental health is precious. It is high time we started to take better care of it. We cannot allow people with mental health struggles to suffer in silence any longer. The EU is committed to playing its part to shine a spotlight on this crucial issue provide stronger mental health support to its citizens, not just on World Mental Health Day, but every day. Now is the time to act, to listen and to turn our vision into reality, and to make mental health a priority for all of us.”