The EESC has called for a reform of health systems across the EU in a bid to ensure a comprehensive approach to mental health, amid a spike in mental health and behavioural disorders among Europeans, particularly Europe's younger population.

In an opinion requested by the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU, adopted at its plenary session in July, the EESC stated that mental health care should focus on timely prevention, early detection and community-based care.

"We urgently need to reform health systems across the EU to ensure that they deliver integrated and planned long-term interventions and care, not only to cure but also to prevent medical conditions, using multidisciplinary teams, instead of being organised around episodic models of care," said the rapporteur for the opinion, Milena Angelova.

"We need to change our mental health care systems. We need more specialists and more support for the people who need [the care],"said the co-rapporteur for the opinion, Ivan Kokalov.
Young people, children, women and disadvantaged groups, but also people exposed to prolonged stress, are at particular risk of developing a mental disorder.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has further deteriorated, with some 20% of Europeans experiencing mental health needs, ranging from severe to moderate. This has, among other things, also affected working life and income. Current estimates show that mental health and behavioural disorders cost the EU some 4% of its GDP annually.
Mental health disorders are also taking a severe human toll and are responsible for roughly 4% of deaths in Europe every year; they are the second-most prevalent cause of death among young people.

The EESC commends the European Commission on its recent Comprehensive Plan on Mental Health, and urges that this plan be swiftly transposed into a properly funded EU Mental Health Strategy. The strategy should have a timeframe, define clear responsibilities and include measurable progress indicators.

In the EESC's view, mental health systems should be rights-based and person-centered, prioritising the empowerment and active participation of individuals in their own recovery.
The EESC strongly recommends that the European Commission declare 2024 as the European Year of Mental Health. This would send out a powerful signal and encourage the forging of a strong alliance to improve and promote mental health throughout the EU.