European Mental Health Strategy


Effective and respectful treatment

In 2011 World Mental Health Day (10 October) focuses on investing in mental health. There is no doubt that good mental health is an economic factor, and improving the mental health of a population yields benefits in both human and economic terms. The implications of poor mental health to society are enormous – mental disorders are estimated to affect at least 25% of the population of the European region every year, most commonly through depression and anxiety. However, there is a need to balance between the economic gain of good mental health in terms of wellbeing and productivity and providing the care people want and need.

In consultation with European Member States, NGOs and key partners, WHO Europe is developing a strategy which will guide the work for mental health in the European Region for the next decade.
This strategy is built around seven strategic objectives, four core and 3 cross-cutting. Together, they hold the promise of improving wellbeing and reducing the burden of mental disorders across the whole European Region.    

Four core strategic objectives of the mental health strategy

1. Everyone has an equal opportunity to experience  mental wellbeing throughout their lifespan, particularly those who are most vulnerable or at risk.
2. Persons with mental health problems are full citizens whose human rights are respected and promoted.
3. Mental health services are accessible and affordable, available fairly.
4. People receive effective and respectful treatment–offered the way people want it. 

These are supported by 3 cross-cutting objectives:

5. Physical health and mental health depend on each other
6. Mental health care needs partnerships and accountability
7. Good and transparent knowledge and information is available about activities for mental health and mental disorders

These seven objectives are to be delivered with a core objective of providing effective treatment with respect for users and carers.

Effective and respectful treatment – offering care the way people want it

Over the past decade a consensus has developed that mental health care and treatment should be provided in local settings, as close as possible to where people live. This deinstitutionalization should result in positive care experiences, a far cry from the large mental hospitals prone to neglect and institutionalization. However, this commitment has focused largely on structural changes rather than how the user experiences care and treatment – which often can be very negative. Quotes from users give a strong message about the way services are experienced, and what is key to recovery:

“If you enter the psychiatric business as a patient, you run a high risk of being reduced to the mental disorder you came with, or to a disturbed object“. Wilma

“The help and company of good friends, the rediscovery of old pleasures, the support of my family, being useful to others, feeling part of the community – these are all essential factors in my recovery”. Ricardo

"I was terrified going into a psychiatric hospital for the first time. I had heard nothing but terrible things about them, and thought that I would never get out again." Enda

There is a need to ensure that in addition to being effective and therapeutic, treatments must respect the dignity and preferences of the service users and their carers. Human rights and fighting stigma and discrimination go hand-in-hand with this approach.

The strategy in the making is developed with a close attention to the way users experience care – it will be finalized over the next 18 months in close consultation with Member State representatives, NGOs and other partners.