The EU Commission intends to equate mental health with physical health in a new plan presented in Brussels on June 7. The plan encourages EU countries to improve their ability to identify mental health issues early, both among the workforce and among children and young people. About a sixth of EU citizens suffer from mental disorders, and the total cost of this is estimated at around 600 billion euro annually.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed during the presentation of the plan in Brussels that mental health is just as crucial to our wellbeing as physical health:
“Mental health is just as important to our wellbeing as physical health. We want to ensure that help is available and affordable for everyone who needs it,” said von der Leyen.
The situation has been serious for a long time – even before covid-19. The Commission estimates that a sixth of EU citizens suffer from mental health problems, which corresponds to about 84 million people. This number has likely increased after the pandemic, putting additional pressure on the economies of EU countries. Expenses for psychological help, lower productivity, and support for stress victims cost EU countries up to 600 billion euro annually. According to the EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, stress is common in EU workplaces and contributes to about half of all lost working days.
The Danish Industry (DI) hopes that this plan will contribute to raising the priority of mental health. Deputy Director of DI Life Science, Peder Søgaard-Pedersen, points out that depression is the most common new disease in Denmark and results in over three million additional sick days per year. He hopes that the EU plan, along with the Danish 10-year plan for psychiatry, will strengthen prevention and ensure accessible treatment.
Rasmus Hartung, CEO of Howdy, also sees the new plan positively, and believes that there has been too much focus on treatment rather than prevention for too long:
“It’s positive that there’s now also an EU-level focus on the importance of mental health. If we want to prevent, we need to break with the paradigm that we only reach out to those who have become sick.”
The EU Commission plans to invest around 1.23 billion euro to assist member countries’ work on mental health. The funds will be used for 20 initiatives, primarily focusing on prevention, access to quality treatment, and a smooth transition back to everyday life after treatment. The plan also includes a special focus on children who have fled from Ukraine.