Response to the European Commission’s Communication on a Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health

The First Years, First Priority campaign welcomes the European Commission’s Communication on a Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health, published on 7 June 2023.

We welcome the recognition that childhood is a crucial life stage in determining future mental health, and the attention to the mental health needs of children, families, and communities. We also welcome the recognition that these require a comprehensive response at national and EU level. Children’s mental health must become a priority for all Member States, with interventions starting in their earliest years. High levels of stress experienced early in life, for a long period of time, can impact a child’s developing brain and affect their development, with consequences for their health later in life.

Poverty and exclusion, as well as poor living conditions, are also important stressors in children’s and caregivers’ lives. It is clear that the multiple crises and risk factors currently experienced by people across Europe, and beyond, are taking a huge toll on people’s mental health, especially among children and young people. This Communication is part of the Commission’s drive towards a European Health Union, one which can respond to growing health challenges, and which sees mental health as an integral and indivisible part of overall health. With suicide as the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-19 in Europe, Member States and EU institutions must respond with urgency and commitment to the mental health needs of children, their families, and communities, address the underlying causes and invest in early intervention support.

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