Several factors, some longstanding and some newly emerging, prompted WHO to focus on drafting a new European Action Plan on Mental Health. These factors are:
  • the recent economic crisis and the need for austerity measures;
  • the continuing need to address deinstitutionalization;
  • the treatment gap and the stigma associated with mental health;
  • the growing emphasis on choice and recovery;
  • the human-rights legislation including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;
  • the importance to profile mental health as a cause as well as an effect of other noncommunicable diseases such as cardio-vascular diseases.

A working group combining expertise, political influence and advocacy was then created to ensure shared ownership of the Action Plan and its objectives from among the largest and most diverse stakeholders in mental health. It was developed to be complementary to the Global Action Plan, covering similar aims and objectives, but relevant to the specific needs and challenges of the European Region.

The WHO European Mental Health Action Plan was signed and endorsed at the sixty-third session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in September 2013, on behalf of the Ministers of Health of the 53 Member States of the European Region.

The Action Plan offers a forward-looking model of public mental health and psychiatric service and sets a strategic direction for a mental health reform in Europe. It covers promotion of mental well-being, prevention of mental disorders and the development of community-based mental health services, within the context of human rights.

Its core messages are the need to reduce the disadvantages experienced by the most vulnerable individuals and groups in society, as well as the need to provide services that guarantee safe and effective interventions.

The Plan identifies seven objectives, four core and three cross-cutting, with main issues, specific outcomes and proposed actions for Member States and WHO. The four core objectives are:
  1. everyone has an equal opportunity to realize mental well-being throughout their lifespan, particularly those who are most vulnerable or at risk;
  2. people with mental health problems are citizens whose human rights are fully valued, protected and promoted;
  3. mental health services are accessible and affordable, available in the community according to need; and
  4. people are entitled to respectful, safe and effective treatment.

The three cross-cutting objectives are:

  1. health systems provide good physical and mental health care for all;
  2. mental health systems work in well-coordinated partnerships with other sectors; and
  3. mental health governance and delivery are driven by good information and knowledge.