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Amid Growing Concerns Over Looming Crisis, Maltese MEPs Call For A European Year For Mental Health

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Two of Malta’s MEPs, Alex Agius Saliba and Josianne Cutajar, have joined calls by MEPs for an official ‘European Year For Mental Health’ and for the EU to commit towards a more serious stance on the awareness and support for mental health issues.

Forming part of the MEP Alliance for Mental Health, a European Parliament interest group on Mental Health, Wellbeing and Brain Disorders, the MEPs attended a meeting organised by GAMIAN-Europe.

The pan-European, patient-driven organisation represents advocating the interests and rights of people affected by mental health illnesses.

The meeting focused on the fact that mental health and related policy is considered a low-priority within the European Union despite the huge costs and impacts it has on individuals, families and carers alongside communities, healthcare and social systems.

Not to mention the fact that, according to the European Commission, more than one in six people across the European Union are affected by mental health issues in any given year.

This rate is also thought to most likely increase as a result of COVID-19.

When it comes to mental health, Gozitan MEP Josianne Cutajar highlighted the importance of Europe being “a society in which people speak openly about mental health”, both in general but especially to their doctors.

Irish MEP Maria Walsh, the co-chair of the MEP Alliance for Mental Health, also reiterated that “the time is now to make mental health everybody’s business as the current COVID-19 pandemic truly puts the spotlight on the huge importance of mental health and well-being”.

“We need a better and wider understanding of the importance and impact of mental health as well as effective policy, practice and services in this area,” Maria Walsh MEP said. ‘We can improve people’s well-being while ultimately saving resources.”

Their statements come as part of the goal to develop a comprehensive campaign plan and decisions on aims, potential themes, activities and structure of a European Year for Mental Health.

Such a year would put a spotlight on the issue, as with previous European Years which have focused on issues such as Active Ageing or People With Disabilities.

A European Year would provide a perfect platform for awareness to be raised surrounding this problem, facilitate the creation of sustainable policy solutions and initiatives and provide better visibility of the true scope of the situation.

It is crucial now more than ever to campaign not just towards a European Year For Mental Health, but also towards a general understanding and stigmatisation surrounding mental health.

Mental health can affect anyone no matter their age, social standing or background and can come in numerous forms such as depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD or schizophrenia.

Poor mental health is also consistently associated with unemployment, low income and standard of living, poor physical health, stigma and taboo. It is not just a huge problem; it is also in many cases an unseen problem.

Countless people feel the need to remain silent about their struggles and mental health due to the stigma and taboo surrounding it.

As such, mental health is also the fastest growing current health burden, with neuropsychiatric disorders responsible for one third of all disabilities, 15% of inpatient costs and a quarter of all drug costs.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

Do you feel that a European Year for Mental Health is important? Let us know in the comments below

READ NEXT: European Parliament To Debate Daphne Caruana Galizia And Rule Of Law In Malta This Thursday 

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