10 October 2023
World Mental Health Day conference: An EU comprehensive approach that prioritises sound mental health for all
To mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2023, the European Commission is holding a high-level conference in Brussels, hosted by Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. This event will bring together hundreds of representatives from the EU institutions, national governments, international organisations and other interested partners to raise awareness of the EU Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health. Launched on 7 June 2023, this initiative aims to put mental health on par with physical health and leave no one behind. It includes various priorities, ranging from a “mental health in all policies” approach, to promotion and prevention and equal access for all. A budget of €1.23 billion in EU funding from different financial instruments is allocated, to ensure the implementation of the 20 flagship initiatives.
Mental Health Europe, a member of the GoGreenRoutes project consortium, will play an active role in this event. The President of the European network and one of its members have been invited to speak during the first panel.
The Communication acknowledges that mental health is not limited to just health considerations. It recognises that socio-economic and environmental determinants, along with life events, play a crucial role in shaping our mental health and can either act as protective or risk factors. As a result of this broader understanding of mental health, coordinated efforts both within and beyond the health system are required to overcome barriers to good mental health, including a strong focus on prevention.
The Communication explicitly mentions the role that the environment and sustainable urban development can play to improve mental health and support mental health resilience. The European Commission refers to the growing body of research pointing to the insight of inter-connectedness and reconnection to nature as having a positive impact on mental health. At the same time, the negative impact of pollution on mental health is widely recognised, including factors like air pollution and citizens’ exposure to toxic chemicals. The Communication also acknowledges that the targets and actions under the European Green Deal, aimed at promoting a clean environment, re-naturalising and restoring sites, and implementing urban green initiatives, have a positive influence on both our physical and mental health.
We – project partners of GoGreenRoutes – welcome the recognition of the interconnections between the environment and mental health in the European Commission’s Communication. Research carried out in the framework of our project highlights that urban greening is an effective strategy to promote good mental health at the population level. Moreover, since poor mental health is a cost for our societies, considering urban greening as a public health prevention tool can yield benefits for both our societies and economies. In addition to the research proving the links between nature-based solutions and mental health, we are also involved in co-creating a scorecard system for cities to assess their performance and monitor progress regarding the mental health and wellbeing of their population. A policy brief on mental health – reflecting on the policy implications of our research findings and including key recommendations for policymakers – will shortly be published. All of these valuable resources will be made available on our project website for wider access and dissemination.
The EU comprehensive approach signifies the beginning of a journey, a journey that we all have to take together, because mental health concerns all of us.
Image by "Marcel Strauß", licensed under free stock