“We call for a Mental Health in All Policies (MHiaP) approach, i.e., for public policies across sectors to promote population mental health and wellbeing by initiating and facilitating action within different non-health public policy areas.”Read the Joint Statement here
The signatories of the Joint Statement, consider mental health an integral part of health and believe that everyone has the right to good mental health. Visioning a Europe where everyone’s mental health can flourish across the entire life course and everyone can have timely, appropriate and affordable access to support, when needed.
The first key element of any initiative addressing mental health lies in changing narratives around how mental health is conceptualised and addressed, including in policies and frameworks for action. Mental health is shaped by a variety of life events and transition moments across the life course as well as by wider social, economic, and environmental factors. Throughout our lives, individual, social and structural determinants may accumulate and interact to protect or undermine our mental health.
A rights-based approach to mental health
A second crucial element of any initiative to address mental health is a human rights approach, where rights-based principles are mainstreamed into all domains and any form of discrimination is prohibited. People continue to experience barriers in life due to their health status, disability or other conditions. Services and programmes across different sectors (e.g., health, housing, employment, education, justice) need to collaborate and provide holistic support to combat discrimination and address inequities stemming from mental health determinants. To facilitate such collaboration, significant strategy, policy and system changes are required.
Sufficient policy provisions
A comprehensive understanding of mental health and its socio-economic and environmental determinants sees a mental health-in-all-policies approach as essential to protect and improve mental wellbeing. In such an approach, actions are taken to address mental health within and beyond the health sector, with a strong focus on promotion and prevention. Policies in different areas (such as education, child protection, employment, income, housing, culture, environment, social protection and many more) can impact positively on mental health, by strengthening protective factors and mitigating risk factors for mental health problems. Conversely, lack of sufficient policy provisions or changes to policies (e.g., austerity measures or diminishing income support policies) can adversely affect mental health and wellbeing.
The importance of acting early
The foundations of mental health are laid early in life; as such, risks occurring during developmentally sensitive periods, especially early childhood, can be particularly detrimental. Hence, availability of good quality early childhood education and childcare services; learning environments that promote and protect mental health; evidence based psychological support; family policies (such as parental leave or paid family leave) are all essential pillars for giving children the best start in life. At the same time, intervening with evidence-based methods to minimize the consequences of stressful and traumatic events in childhood and in families is crucial.
Mental Health in All Policies (MHiaP)
The call is for a Mental Health in All Policies (MHiaP) approach, i.e., for public policies across sectors to promote population mental health and wellbeing by initiating and facilitating action within different non-health public policy areas. Promoting good mental health is first and foremost a human rights imperative, it also makes economic sense. (Mental) health in all policies and economies of wellbeing are two sides of the same coin, as recognised by the Council of the EU in the Council Conclusions of 2019.
Support from the European Union
The European Union can play a key role in supporting Member States’ efforts towards better mental health for the European population. It can also lead by example. The announcement of an upcoming initiative on a comprehensive approach to mental health is a commendable first step in the right direction. For it to be effective, the following recommendations need to be taken into account.
- Develop a comprehensive, multi-sectoral Mental Health Strategy, based on a psychosocial and human rights approach
- Allocate EU Funds to support Member States in their mental health in all policies actions
- Mainstream mental health in all EU policies
- Raise awareness and fight stigma
- trainings for both civil servants and decision makers on amendable determinants of mental health and on how to use this information on policy making.
- joint commissioning, joint budgeting, mental health impact assessment, social prescribing.
- routine health information systems including mental health indicators and indicators related to determinants of mental health.
- Mental Health Europe’s training, toolkit and guidelines on co-creation in mental health.
- trainings for health and care professionals (e.g., primary care and social care professionals) on intersectoral collaboration and joint service provision.
- trainings for civil servants, decision makers and other relevant stakeholders on amenable determinants of mental health (e.g., developing climate literacy for health professionals).
We all have a role to play
In order to achieve the vision of a Europe where everyone’s mental health and wellbeing flourish across their life course, the signatories are joining forces and collaborating with European countries and the EU in providing expertise and ensuring that the voice of people is heard and nobody is left behind.
You can find the full Joint Statement and the C4H logo and CAE logo (in the bottom of the statement) here