Mental health

The WHO vision of 'no health without mental health' reflects the definition of health in the WHO constitution. Mental health is everyone's business; it affects both the lives of people living with mental health problems, their carers, and the productivity of society as a whole. In many Western countries, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability, responsible for 30-40% of chronic sick leave and costing some 3% of GDP.

WHO/Europe pursues five priorities for mental health:

  1. the wellbeing of the population by supporting activities that promote mental wellbeing and prevent mental disorders;
  2. service users’ and carers’ empowerment so that the services can respond to their needs, aspirations and experiences;
  3. development of services, particularly community-based practice in middle- and low-income countries, where services have traditionally been provided in large mental institutions;
  4. the state of care for people with mental disabilities in Europe, focusing on the conditions of people with intellectual disabilities and long-term mental health problems, who too often live in unacceptable circumstances, and the development of family support and community services; and
  5. high-quality information, as it is often lacking.
Much is now known about what works in mental health promotion, prevention, care and treatment. The challenge is now to implement this knowledge.

Services and practice do not always reflect the knowledge of what works in mental health care and treatment. Many countries have limited community-based mental health services and little specialist help for young or elderly people.

Many people in large mental institutions are subject to neglect and abuse of human rights, reflected in high mortality rates. Stigma and prejudice are widespread and affect every aspect of mental health, including whether people seek and receive help.