The European Economic and Social Committee
(EESC) adopted its opinion
on measures to improve mental health in plenary session on 13 July this
year. It has been drafted as an exploratory opinion at the request of the
Spanish Council Presidency. Spain has made improving mental health and
combating the associated stigma a priority of its Council Presidency. Council
conclusions are being sought, which is why the issue was on the agenda of the
informal ministerial meeting in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on 27 and 28 July.
The EESC's opinion should be placed in the
context of other initiatives on mental health, such as the European
Commission's Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health or
the EESC's position on precarious work (see
DSV News 07/2023). The parliamentary subcommittee SANT, which deals
exclusively with health issues, also wants to set its own political accents
with a self-initiated report. For example, rapporteur Sara Cerdas (S&D, PT)
proposes, among other things, the promotion of "social prescribing"
along the lines of the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, whereby
counsellors ("link workers") work with people to create individual
support plans so that they can take better control of their well-being. The draft
report has been available since the end of July.
A vicious circle
Mental health is rightly high on the
political agenda, states the EESC. It stated that about four per cent of deaths
in a year are due to mental health problems and behavioural disorders. The
direct and indirect costs also amounted to almost four per cent of the gross
domestic product. The influencing factors are known: childhood experiences,
poverty, discrimination, education, all forms of dependency, also poor
healthcare. Most recently, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the
problem. This is particularly evident among young and older people, but also
other vulnerable groups. In its conclusions, the EESC stresses the importance
of continuously promoting mental health, the prevention of mental illness and
the development of resilience. And this in all EU strategies and at all levels.
Civil Society Prize
Also in July, the EESC launched its Civil
Society Prize for the 14th time. This also addresses the issue of promoting
the mental well-being of Europeans. We are looking for innovative non-profit
projects that help people with mental illness and create favourable conditions
for their mental well-being.