World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the aim of raising awareness of mental health issues across the globe and helping facilitate patient access to robust, modern and comprehensive mental healthcare services. This is especially important as the issue of mental health in many countries, including those within Europe, is often seen as a taboo subject, with high levels of social stigma associated with mental illness.
Breaking down barriers for better mental healthcare provision in Europe
Mental health encompasses a wide spectrum of conditions, with some of the most prominent in the public’s mind arguably being depression-related illnesses. But other conditions that are firmly under the mental health umbrella include schizophrenia, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), autism and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Europe in no way fares better than other regions of the world with regards to levels of mental health affliction. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated in 2014 that 27 % of the adult population in EU countries (plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) had experienced at least one of a series of mental health disorders in the previous year. Other estimates put the figure of Europeans suffering from mental health distress to be as high as 38 % – an enormous burden on individuals, society, healthcare systems and the wider economy. The overall financial costs of mental illnesses, in terms of both direct medical, as well as indirect costs, amount to more than EUR 450 billion per year in the EU. With such alarming figures for both human and economic costs, more action must be taken to tackle the widespread, yet still somewhat undercover, mental health epidemic.
Thus, in this the first special section of our newly revamped Research*eu magazine, we’re playing our part in raising awareness of mental health disorders and the individuals who struggle with them on a daily basis. We’re doing this by showcasing some of the innovative EU-funded projects that have dedicated themselves to developing solutions (medical, technological and policy-based) to tackle the mental health crisis in Europe and worldwide.
Some of our featured projects have focused on frontline mental health services and the need to provide patients with better integrated and flexible care provision. Others have been working on new treatments for specific disorders, such as aggression and psychosis. A third group of projects have been advancing two very promising and exciting new fields of research, specifically the use of innovative MRI scanners and virtual reality tools to better diagnose and treat mental disorders.
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