The European Commission said on Wednesday it would allocate 1.23 billion euros ($1.3 billion) to mental health initiatives across the 27-member European Union and make mental health a pillar of health policy.
“Today marks a new beginning for a comprehensive, prevention-oriented and multi-stakeholder approach to mental health at EU level,” Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for health and food safety, said in a statement.
“We need to break down stigma and discrimination so that those in need can reach out and receive the support they need. It is OK not to be OK, and it is our duty to ensure that everyone asking for help has access to it.”
The Commission said mental health problems already impacted around 84 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic with an economic cost of about 600 billion euro a year, or 4% of the bloc’s GDP.
The situation has deteriorated since the pandemic with the war in Ukraine, climate change anxiety and the rising cost of living due to soaring inflation.
At a press conference, Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas called it a “silent epidemic” and said the topic was the last piece in the European Health Union “puzzle”.
The EU action will focus on adequate and effective prevention, access to high quality and affordable mental healthcare and treatment, and reintegration into society after recovery.
Among its initiatives, the EU will increase protection for children including from the impact of social media, run campaigns for mental health in the workplace, launch an initiative on European depression and suicide prevention, create a European Code for Mental Health, and provide targeted support to the elderly, migrants and refugee populations.