The CoR Interregional Group on Health and Well-being (IRGHW) held its last meeting for 2022 on 1 December. Following up on the discussion had in November 2021, this meeting was an occasion for the members of the Interregional Group to deepen the topic of mental health in the European Union, thanks to the participation of Francesca Centola, Policy and Knowledge Officer at Mental Health Europe, and Isabelle Johansson, Head of Region Östergötland’s EU Office (Sweden).
Over the past two years, the pandemic has continued to take its toll on people’s mental health, posing severe challenges for our societies both in the short and long run. The risk of a “silent pandemic”, as defined several times by Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, has put a significant spotlight on mental health at the EU’s and Member States’ level, and raised awareness of the importance of promotion and prevention, as well as support for people living with mental health problems. This attention also emerged in Ursula von der Leyen’s SOTEU speech on 14 September 2022, where the Commission President announced a new European strategy on mental health to be presented in 2023.
Francesca Centola opened the meeting by giving an overview of the socio-economic and environmental determinants that act as risk factors or protective factors for mental health, stressing the paramount role of the European Union in supporting the Members States in creating the conditions for positive mental health in all policies. To reach that, Ms Centola emphasised the need to follow an inclusive approach that takes into account these principles: community-based, integrated for a holistic approach, respectful of human rights, and co-created with people with lived experiences. Among the topics raised, she underlined the importance of digitalisation and innovative solutions. She took the chance to present some of the activities of the Mental Health Advocacy Platform, led by Mental Health Europe on the EU Health Policy Platform, whose aim is to boost the exchange of knowledge, and announced two upcoming appointments on the Mental Health in all Policies Thematic Network hosted by the EU Health Policy Platform: on 11 January, a webinar on mental health and digital, and, in February, a webinar on mental health and environment.
Isabelle Johansson presented the development of a Swedish national platform (INERA) which includes digital treatment and support of cognitive behavioural therapy to address several conditions such as depression and anxiety. This example gave the opportunity to address lessons learned as regards factors important for a successful digital transformation and implementation of a cost-effective evidence-based treatment. This online cognitive behavioral treatment has recorded high rates of demand, especially for the flexibility it gives to both patients and professionals – still with a growing trend in its use – and allows the latter to have bigger patient capacity and to adapt time allocation to patients according to needs.