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GREEN PAPER
Improving the mental health of the population.
Towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union

INTRODUCTION

The mental health of the European population is a resource for the attainment of some of the EU’s strategic policy objectives, such as to put Europe back on the path to long-term prosperity, to sustain Europe’s commitment to solidarity and social justice, and to bring tangible practical benefits to the quality of life for European citizens.

However, the mental health of the EU population can be considerably improved:

  • Mental ill health affects every fourth citizen and can lead to suicide, a cause of too many deaths;
  • Mental ill health causes significant losses and burdens to the economic, social, educational as well as criminal and justice systems;
  • Stigmatisation, discrimination and non-respect for the human rights and the dignity of mentally ill and disabled people still exist, challenging core European values.

Improvement is possible. Many initiatives have already been taken. Further development and consolidation of the existing actions is required. The January 2005 WHO European Ministerial Conference on Mental Health established a framework for comprehensive action, and created strong political commitment for mental health. It invited the European Commission, a collaborating partner of the conference, to contribute to implementing this framework for action, in line with its competencies and the Council’s expectations and in partnership with the WHO.
This Green paper is a first answer to this invitation. It proposes to establish an EU-strategy on mental health. This would add value: by constituting a framework for exchange and cooperation between Member States; by helping to increase the coherence of actions in the health and non-health policy sectors in Member States and at Community level; and by allowing involvement of a broad range of relevant stakeholders into building solutions.

The purpose of this Green Paper is to launch a debate with the European institutions, Governments, health professionals, stakeholders in other sectors, civil society including patient organisations, and the research community about the relevance of mental health for the EU, the need for a strategy at EU-level and its possible priorities.

In accordance with the provisions made in Article 152 of the EC Treaty, some of the proposals for action in the field of public health made in this Green Paper fall under Community competence. Further proposals will be the exclusive competence of Member States. For proposals for action in other policy fields, the appropriate legal bases will apply.

The Commission’s intention is to publish the results of the consultation process together with, if appropriate, its proposal for a strategy on mental health for the EU by the end of 2006.

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