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9 October 2020

Mental health is not a Cinderella issue: it is a fundamental human right and a wise investment in the future

Brussels, 09 October 2020 – In a call to mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2020, Mental Health Europe urges governments to step up efforts in supporting the mental health of millions of Europeans. The EU must take the lead and integrate mental health into the long-term recovery plans, policies and funding.

This year’s theme of the World Mental Health Day focuses on the urgent need to address the chronic under-investment in mental health. At least one in six people (84 million) across the EU has mental ill-health. Yet, on average, countries spend less than 2% of their national health budgets on mental health. Globally, mental health problems are the leading causes of disability. The lost productivity resulting from poor mental health costs the EU 4% of GDP each year.


COVID-19 has disrupted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide. The gap between demand for mental health services and supply is increasing. Social isolation, bereavement and unemployment caused by the pandemic aggravate the risk of mental health problems. Stigma and discrimination of people with mental ill-health compound the problem and prevent people from seeking support.


“As the world grapples with significant economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that mental health is an urgent health challenge requiring a common European response. The pandemic has magnified long-lasting underfunding in mental health care, prevention and promotion. Investing in mental health should not be an act of luxury but a decisive action to establish healthy societies in the future. We all know that there is no health without mental health. Protecting and promoting it during times of adversity should become a priority for EU leaders,” said Jan Berndsen, President of Mental Health Europe.


“Now is the time we stop seeing mental health as a ‘Cinderella’ issue: neglected, underfunded and under-resourced. The right to mental health is a fundamental human right and should be available for all. COVID-19 offers us an opportunity to rethink our approach and implement structural changes. The EU and its member states should be key drivers for investing and pushing forward mental health system reforms. As we are now in a decisive moment, 2020 is an opportunity for the EU to make smart and thoughtful investments today for a better future with good mental health tomorrow. The EU has instruments so let’s now steer the political and economic wheel to instigate the reforms,” said Claudia Marinetti, Director of Mental Health Europe.


In line with this year’s World Mental Health Day theme, Mental Health Europe hosted a high-level seminar on the future of mental health, rights, and recovery in Europe. The event brought together key actors to discuss how to turn the COVID-19 crisis into a catalyst for change in European mental health. In the follow-up, MHE published key recommendations for action to help the EU and its member states to scale up mental health support both now and for the future. Measures include the adoption of a comprehensive European strategy for mental health, allocation of resources to mental health support and care and promotion of fundamental social rights to tackle social and economic inequalities and reduce mental health problems.



About Mental Health Europe

Mental Health Europe (MHE) is the largest independent European network organisation working to promote positive mental health prevent mental health problems and advance the rights of people with mental ill-health or psychosocial disabilities. Learn more about MHE from this video.



About World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day is observed annually around the globe on 10 October. Each year it celebrates a different theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health. This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental Health for All: Greater Investment, Greater Access. Everyone, everywhere.’




For more information and media requests, please contact Tetiana Sykes, Communications Manager at Mental Health Europe,



Further information

  • Check out resources to support your mental health during COVID-19 crisis
  • See highlights from last week’s discussions on the future of mental health rights and recovery in Europe
  • Learn top tips for positive mental health collected during the first European mental health awareness week