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by JM Caldas de Almeida, Coordinator, EU Joint Action Mental Health and Wellbeing

by JM Caldas de Almeida, Coordinator, EU Joint Action Mental Health and Wellbeing

The EU Joint Action on Mental Health and Wellbeing was launched in 2013 to champion mental health as a European public health priority and to develop tools to support Member States in improving conditions for the prevention, diagnosis and care of mental disorders in their countries.  

The Final Conference of the Joint Action, held in Brussels on 21-22 January 2016, presented the opportunity to discuss progress made over the past three years and to hold a debate on the Framework for Action on Mental Health and Wellbeing, the most important outcome of this initiative.

Based on the main policy recommendations proposed by the five workgroups that integrated the Joint Action, the Framework for Action can significantly impact the way European countries address mental health issues in the future.

This Framework can support Member States as they review their policies and share experiences in improving policy effectiveness through innovative approaches, whilst taking into account specific needs at local, regional and national level. Furthermore, it can also provide guidance for the review and development of the EU's own policies.

This gives new hope to everyone who cares about mental health in Europe. Hope that the Framework for Action will prove to be the instrument that the EU and Member States so sorely need to develop a real and effective European mental health strategy.

Given that mental disorders account for some 22% of European disabilities and include everything from depression to Alzheimer's, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, and taking into consideration that positive mental health is a key resource for individuals and societies, we must have a strategy in place that is going to have real impact.  Today in the EU, only about half of people with a severe mental disorder, and far fewer with a mild-to-moderate mental disorder, receive adequate treatment, and there is even less being done to prevent mental disorders and promote mental health.

It is therefore crucial that the Member States implement the policy recommendations of this Action Framework, in line with their specific needs; and that the European Commission complement the important monitoring actions already initiated through the EU Compass with initiatives contributing to define measurable targets to be achieved through the implementation of the recommendations included in the Framework for Action.  Countless lives are at stake here: it's worth every effort we can make.