Though mental health is not a core competence of the European Union, the European Parliament decision making in the areas of social, disability, migratory and human rights policy are likely to have a direct impact on the wellbeing of millions of Europeans and on persons living with mental ill health and psychosocial disabilities.
Before the 2014 European Elections, Mental Health Europe encouraged its wide membership to call on Members of the European Parliament to show more commitment to mental health through:
● The mainstreaming of mental health in all relevant EU policies;
● An active role of the European Parliament in supporting the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) by the European Union and more respect of the Convention’s articles in all the areas within the field of competence;
● More actions and commitment to tackle prejudices and stigma associated with mental health ill health through relevant projects and policies;
● Strong support to deinstitutionalisation by making make sure that EU Funds are used to facilitate the shift from institutional to community services and that EU Funds will not be used for institutions any longer;
● More support to the representation of independent organisations working in the field of mental health to allow for active participation of (ex-)users of mental health services in EU policy-making.
Mainstreaming mental health in all European policies is important and possible. Mental health is not only about health but about the social issues and barriers we face, how we work, where we live, and our basic human rights: it cannot be addressed in silos. That is why Mental Health Europe advocates for a psychosocial approach to mental health, which instead of defining mental ill-health as a ‘disease’ or ‘illness’ caused by biological factors, looks to a person’s life and social environment, treating these factors as important in understanding well-being and mental ill health. It appreciates the lived experience of people who have experienced mental distress and recognises them as experts in their own lives.
A number of MEPs members of the MHE Coalition for Mental Health and Well-being in the European Parliament have been receptive to this approach and have tried to support and promote it through the formulation of amendments, the initiation of own initiative reports and articles in the media and by supporting relevant events in the European Parliament.
During the current mandate, the European Parliament has made certain but limited progress on promoting and mainstreaming mental health and the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities.
Thumbs up for the European Parliament
Human Rights and the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament is an informal grouping of MEPs who are interested in promoting disability policy in their work at the European Parliament.
The European Pillar of Social Rights is an opportunity to improve services across Europe that will contribute to preventing mental ill health, promote the wellbeing of millions of people in Europe, and protect people living with mental health problems and psychosocial disabilities.
Occupational Health and Safety
A 2015 resolution on health and safety at work, which underlined the importance of a physically and mentally safe and healthy working environment to achieve active and healthy ageing for workers.
Gender and Mental Health
The 2017 report on Promoting gender equality in mental health and clinical research was adopted.
Migration and Mental Health
Amendments on mental health were made this year to the reception standards directive opinion.
Mental Health Coalitions and Interest Groups
Some MEPs have renewed interested or joined in MHE’s informal Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the European Parliament.
Thumbs Down for the European Parliament
The European Join Action on Mental health and Wellbeing came to an end in January 2016 and resulted in The European Framework for Action on Mental Health and Wellbeing and the re-launched EU Compass for Action on Mental Health and Wellbeing.
Over the next year and in the run up to the 2019 European elections, MEPs must continue to push these issues at EU level – to emphasise the importance of mainstreaming mental health in all policies.
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
In the current parliament, MEP Julie Ward has showed commitment to mental health through co-authoring a report laying out a strategy on promoting gender equality in mental health and clinical trials, participating in events related to mental health inside and outside the EU Parliament, becoming member of the MHE Coalition for Mental Health and Well-being in the EU Parliament and by contributing to articles about the need for an 'all of society' approach to mental health.
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
In the current parliament, MEP Miriam Dalli has showed commitment to mental health by becoming Chair of the MHE Coalition for Mental Health and well-being. Miriam Dalli and her team have supported the organisation of a successful EU Parliament event for World Mental Health Day on young people and digitalisation in 2016. On many occasions, MEP Dalli had the opportunity to renew her commitment to the mental health through the publication of video messages, organisation of events and/or media features.
Group of the European People's Party
In the current parliament, MEP Deirdre Clune has showed commitment to mental health by becoming member of the MHE Coalition for Mental Health and Well-being and by submitting amendments calling for adequate mental health care for asylum seekers on arrival in the EU as part of the revision of reception conditions for asylum seekers. MEP Clune and her team have also initiated and supported the organisation of a successful event in the EU Parliament on active ageing and mental health.