Mental ill-health accounts for almost 20% of illnesses in Europe and mental health problems affect one in four people at some point in their life. Nine of the ten countries with the highest rates of suicide in the world are in the European region. Mental illnesses are a major cause of death, disability and economic burden worldwide and the World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease across all ages. People suffering from mental health problems face various challenges related to unemployment and social exclusion as a result of their mental state.
Furthermore, mental health problems have become one of the leading causes of work absenteeism and early retirement across the European Region with a recent OECD report stating that one in five people of working age suffers from a mental disorder. The current economic recession and its effects on the job market are likely to add to the problems in employment and quality of life experienced by people with mental health problems and their families. The workplace plays a central role in the social inclusion of people with mental health problems.
Mental health has increasingly become recognised as an issue that impacts the whole of society, and not just those suffering from the effects. As such, EU policies have aimed to address mental health and well-being in terms of public health and social inclusion. The European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being in 2008 prioritised mental well-being as a major issue by acknowledging its benefits for the EU, Member States and citizens. The economic repercussions of mental health problems are significant for the society as a whole with individuals having to rely on social care services. This has a wider impact when mental ill health leads to work absenteeism or the inability to find employment.
It is necessary to raise awareness of the stigma and discrimination that are attached to mental health problems as in many cases individuals with such problems are considered disabled. This prevents and limits the understanding of society to such issues and the needs of people with mental health problems.
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Centre for Parliamentary Studies
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