The European Commission needs to boost children's mental health

The European Commission’s communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health is a step forward but requires more commitment to boost children’s mental health

On June 7, the European Commission launched its long-awaited Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health. It intends to highlight the deteriorating situation regarding mental health among the EU population, while also proposing measures to combat mental health struggles.

Eurochild welcomes that the communication includes a chapter on children and young people, acknowledging the particular situation of children struggling with mental health problems. Children and young people are among the most affected by mental health struggles and their situation has worsened significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, suicide is the second highest ranked cause of death among young people, and the number of young people experiencing depression more than doubled over the last few years.

The Commission rightfully identifies that “childhood is a crucial stage in life in determining future mental health” and thus calls for a comprehensive approach to prevent and protect children from any form of violence, including mental health struggles. Moreover, the acknowledgement of the impact of climate change on the mental health of children and young people is crucial, as 75% of children have serious environmental fears which is why it needs to be high on the Commission’s agenda.

In regard to children from Ukraine, the Commission’s communication acknowledges their peculiar situation as a result of the Russian war on Ukraine. Hereby, the European Commission supports the creation of community centres for displaced children and their caregivers as well as children in institutions to help them re-establish some level of normality. Moreover, Eurochild welcomes the specialised e-learning program for paediatricians and primary care medical staff to provide better trauma care and improve children’s mental health.

As part of the communication, the European Commission has listed several flagship initiatives already in place or newly planned to improve the mental health of the people across Europe.

Hereby, Eurochild welcomes in particular:

  • European Child Guarantee
  • Initiative on integrated child protection systems
  • Child Helpline International
  • Child and Youth Mental Health Network
  • Children’s Health 360
  • Youth First Flagship
  • Healthy Screens, Healthy Youth

It is positive to note that the Commission is establishing many initiatives to overcome the mental health problems of children and young people, by allocating more resources for support programs and encouraging Member States to address the problem. Some of the initiatives are already long-established programs, and new support mechanisms directed at children struggling with mental health issues are being introduced.

While we welcome the Commission’s attention to the peculiar situation of children regarding mental health, the new communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health, lacks concrete measures that will improve children’s mental health. Instead of proposing actions, the Commission lists a variety of flagship initiatives that are well-intended but do not include a concrete action plan to support children and young people struggling with mental health.

Positive mental health is crucial for the healthy development. Thus, Eurochild calls on the European Commission to develop concrete measures and plans to significantly boost children’s mental health. It is crucial that the situation of children and young people must be recognized and tackled with a special awareness of their needs. Only then can the mental well-being of children and young people across Europe be improved, and the realisation of children’s rights enables them to develop and reach their full potential.

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