Seen from the US, the upcoming European Elections/Brexit negotiations combination must look like a giant, never-ending puzzle. It’s not far from the truth, since for us located in Brussels, at the very heart of European policymaking, it can also be a challenging topic to follow.
Between 23 and 26 May 2019, European citizens from 27 different countries will get to the polls to elect their representatives in the European Parliament for the next five years. The only time where Europeans get to the polls all together. There will be 705 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) elected to represent 500 million Europeans. The number of MEPs varies from one country to the other and seats are allocated to each Member State based on population (bigger countries get more MEPs).
Mental Health Europe (MHE), as an advocacy organisation, sees those elections as an opportunity to call on current and future European leaders and policymakers to recognise that mental health matters and to bring it to the heart of European policies. For our demands to be heard, we need support and action from citizens, organisations and like-minded communities, as well as users and survivors of services.
Our message is straightforward and universal. Mental health affects us all, in every aspect of our lives: our relationships with the people around us, how we work, where we live, and even our basic human rights. Mental health friendly policies across all sectors, therefore, have a key role in the wellbeing of millions of people.
The last few years have been crucial for mental health and human rights with the publication of groundbreaking reports by international human rights bodies and the increased attention for mental health on the global agenda. What we need is a long-term commitment from political leaders to build a society which does not stigmatise people living with mental ill health, supports the promotion of good mental health, and provides services for people of all ages.
Our ‘Manifesto for Better Mental Health in Europe’ sets out key actions and specific European policy areas where mental health could be included, leveraging existing policy tools. There are many existing European and international initiatives that represent invaluable opportunities to improve mental health policy in Europe, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Although European policies might sound like a very distant concept for MIA’s American readers, we do believe the key actions and recommendations set out in our elections manifesto reflect many shared values between our two continents.
Some of our recommendations are to include mental health in all relevant policies (such as employment, migration, social affairs); to address inequalities, education, early childhood development, housing, violence and poverty as determinants of mental health; to promote investments in research on prevention, recovery, solutions to coercion and investment in non-coercive mental health services; to disseminate advances in mental health promotion and prevention and facilitate networks for research collaboration with people with mental health problems; to consult with and actively involve people with mental health problems and psychosocial disabilities, directly or through their representative organisations when designing, planning, implementing and evaluating policies, laws and services.
At MHE, we always welcome international voices and perspectives to feed into our work, and we believe that people with lived experience should be treated as equal partners in the creation of policies. We are therefore looking forward to hearing from fellow Mad in America’s readers about their views on mental health policy and international advances in the field.