Working Together with Europe for the Future of Mental Health: An Imperative for All

Health - May 14, 2024

European Mental Health Week 2024 is approaching, and this year, the theme of “co-creation” resonates with particular force.

It is a call to collaborative action, an invitation to all those who care about mental health to come together to develop and implement policies and programs aimed at promoting lasting psychological well-being for all.

The reality of mental health is a complex web of challenges and opportunities that involves individuals of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. From young people to older people, from workers to families, no one is immune to the impacts of mental health. And as technology and social changes continue to transform the way we live, it is imperative that we approach new challenges with a mindset of collaboration and innovation.

One of the crucial points that will be addressed during Mental Health Week 2024 will be the importance of early interventions and timely support. Too often, early signs of mental distress are ignored or overlooked, leading to more serious problems over time. Fostering a culture where people feel comfortable asking for help and receiving it promptly is critical to the mental health of a society.

In this regard, the European Union has made important progress in the field of mental health. Through the EU4Health programme, millions of euros have been invested to identify gaps in existing services and build capacity in the mental health sector. The training of health workers and professionals, including teachers and social workers, has been recognized as a critical area in which to invest. Equipping them with the skills to recognize and manage mental health challenges is critical to ensuring equitable and timely access to care.

Another crucial aspect of effective co-creation is combating the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health. Too often, people suffering from psychological or psychiatric problems face prejudice and social ostracism, which can hinder their recovery and well-being. Working alongside national authorities to develop guidance and policies that promote inclusion and understanding is essential to creating a more welcoming and supportive society for all.

But mental health cannot be addressed only at the institutional or governmental level. It is a commitment that involves the entire community, from schools to companies, from civil society organizations to families. Schools must be places where young people not only acquire academic knowledge, but also learn life skills, including emotional management and mental resilience. Workplaces must be environments that promote employee well-being, providing support and resources to address stress and burnout.

Another area of particular focus is the mental health of vulnerable groups, such as children and refugees. The Covid-19 pandemic and other global crises have exacerbated existing inequalities, straining the resources and capacities of the most vulnerable communities. It is essential to ensure that these people receive the support they need to address the unique challenges they face, both through dedicated mental health services and through broader policies that address the underlying causes of their vulnerability.

Promoting mental health research and innovation is critical to ensuring continued progress in the treatment and prevention of mental disorders. Investing in research programs that explore new therapies and treatment approaches can lead to more effective and targeted solutions for those suffering from mental health problems.

European Mental Health Week 2024 reminds us that mental health is a shared responsibility that requires collective commitment. Only through the co-creation of policies, programs and practices that promote understanding, inclusion and support can we hope to create a future in which everyone can enjoy good mental health. It’s an ambitious goal, but one that is definitely worth pursuing for the good of all.

Alessandro Fiorentino