The European Commission held a high-level conference in Brussels on 10 October 2023 to mark World Mental Health Day. On the day, a new Eurobarometer revealed that almost half of EU citizens that responded have (46%) experienced an emotional or psychosocial problem, such as feeling depressed or anxious, in the past twelve months. More than half of respondents (54%) with a mental health issue have not received help from a professional, according to the survey. The event raised awareness of the new EU approach on mental health and underlined the need for everybody to work together to bring down the burden of mental health issues in Europe.
The Eurobarometer confirms that recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the climate crisis, and other societal and economic pressures, have exacerbated the already poor levels of mental health in Europe. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in six people in the EU suffered from mental health issues and the situation has worsened. Most respondents replied that recent world events have influenced their mental health ‘somewhat’ (44%) or ‘to a great extent’ (18%).
Most respondents (60%) think that the most important factors to achieve good mental health are living conditions, followed by financial security (53%). About a third of Europeans consider that being in contact with nature and green spaces (35%), sleeping habits (35%), physical activity (34%) and social contact (33%) are key contributors to good mental health. In all Member States however, a large majority believe that the use of social media can negatively impact the mental health of young people.
In terms of how the EU can contribute the most to improving the mental health of European citizens, the largest share of respondents selected ‘improving the overall quality of life’ (45%), followed by ‘improving access and support to diagnosis, treatment and care of mental health patients’ (37%), and ‘supporting the mental health of the most vulnerable’ (35%).
On 7 June 2023, the Commission adopted the Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health, which will help Member States and stakeholders to take action to deal with mental health challenges. The new Communication has 20 flagship initiatives, identifies €1.23 billion in funding opportunities and has a focus on addressing vulnerable groups, such as children, young people, migrants and refugees.