Select Committee on European Union Fourteenth Report


Sub-Committee G of the House of Lords European Select Committee is carrying out an Inquiry into the policy issues related to a Green Paper published by the European Commission on 18 October 2005 entitled: Improving the mental health of the population: towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union (Commission document 13442/05 reference COM (2005) 484 final). This document is available from the Commission website:

The Green Paper is a consultative document designed to launch a policy debate about the relevance of mental health for the EU, the need for a strategy at EU level and possible priorities. It acknowledges that, while some public health aspects of mental health would fall under Community competence, others would be within the exclusive competence of Member States.

The Commission point out in the Green Paper that:

  • Mental ill health affects every fourth citizen of the EU and costs an estimated 3-4% of EU GDP, mainly through lost productivity, as well as causing many suicides.
  • Mental disorders are a leading cause of early retirement and disability pensions.
  • Mental ill health and conduct and behavioural disorders in childhood incur costs for the social, educational, criminal and justice systems.
  • Further intangible costs concern how society treats mentally ill or disabled persons who still experience social exclusion, stigmatisation, discrimination or non-respect of their fundamental rights and dignity.

Against that background, the Commission state that mental health is an important issue for the European Community because of:

  • the contribution that good mental health of the population can make to some of the EU's strategic policy objectives;
  • the role of the Community to encourage and support cooperation between Member States and to address inequalities between them; and,
  • the obligation for the Community to contribute to a high level of human health protection through all its policies and activities.

The Green Paper suggests that an EU strategy on mental health could add value by creating a framework for exchange and cooperation between Member States; helping to increase the coherence of actions in different policy sectors; and opening a platform for involving stakeholders, including patient and civil society organisations, in building solutions.

Among the options for action outlined by the Green Paper are:

  • promoting mental health and addressing mental health though preventive action;
  • promoting the social inclusion of mentally ill or disabled people and protecting their fundamental rights and dignity; and,
  • improving information and knowledge on mental health in the EU.

The Commission is expected to issue proposals later this year, based on responses to the Green Paper, for consideration by Member States and the European Parliament.

In March of this year, the Sub-Committee invited views from interested parties for the Inquiry on:

  • whether an EU strategy on mental health would be appropriate,
  • if so, what elements it might contain; and,
  • how it might complement and add value to the strategies of Member States and the activities of the World Health Organisation and other international bodies.

Because the start of this Inquiry was delayed, the Sub-Committee is offering a further opportunity for interested parties to submit a concise statement of written evidence to the Inquiry by Monday 2 October 2006 for consideration by the Sub-Committee on return from the Parliamentary Summer Recess.

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