Brussels, April 24, 2023
On Friday, the European Commission organized an event to gather ideas for the upcoming Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Strategy that is to be published in June 2023. A week ago, mental health and addictions experts recommended to EU policymakers in Brussels to support a holistic approach toward mental health that also focuses on the often forgotten interplay between addictions and ill-mental health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the mental health of individuals. Following the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, Spain, and Belgium already announced that mental health is going to be addressed during their upcoming presidencies. At the same time, the European Parliament’s recently established Sub-Committee on Public Health (SANT) has confirmed that it will also address this topic by proposing its own-initiative report on mental health. Within this context, the Institute for Rational Addiction Policies (IRAP) co-organized an event in the European Parliament on 13 April which aimed at introducing the results of a recent collective expert paper focused on mental health and addictions to EU decision-makers.
Expert Roundtable in the European Parliament
The event was hosted by the Co-Chairs of the MEP Alliance for Mental Health, MEP Radka Maxová (S&D, Czech Republic) and MEP Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP, Czech Republic), alongside MEP István Ujhelyi (S&D, Hungary) who is a Co-Chair of the Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing. The keynote speech was delivered by the Czech National Drug Coordinator, Jindřich Vobořil, who before taking on the Governmental position, established one of the leading NGOs in the Czech Republic that helps people with addictive disorders.
Speaking at the event, MEP Radka Maxová said that: “Mental Health is central to our well-being, but for too long it has taken the back seat in health policymaking. The COVID-19 pandemic, for all its damaging effects, contributed to a positive shift of mental health to the top of the health agenda. As the European Commission looks to publish its comprehensive mental health action, it shall also sufficiently tackle the interplay between mental health and addictions since these two are intertwined phenomena.”
Recommendations for the EU policymakers
The Czech National Drug Coordinator Jindrich Voboril pointed out that: “It is a well-established scientific fact that mental health issues and addiction disorders correlate. That’s why the recently published National Action Plan on addiction policies 2023-2025 focuses on all health
aspects and especially pays attention to the so-called comorbidity issues in mental health. Czech Republic might serve as one of the role models for the EU in the focus on health policies based on minimizing harms and risks rather than on the idea of a world free of addictions”. Furthermore, Voboril also added: “Ideology of the unrealistic society free of addiction is ignoring the facts that mental health is the most common source of problem substance use. It only leads to stigma towards vulnerable people and makes it more difficult to implement rational and effective solutions.”
As a part of the event, the experts introduced the joint expert paper titled “Two Sides of the Same Coin: The Interplay Between Mental Health and Addictions” which compared the Czech and Swedish approaches towards mental health and addictions and formulated a set of recommendations for the EU policymakers.
Whilst Ales Rod, Head of the Centre for Economic and Market Analysis (CETA) and a member of the National Economic Council focused on the economic aspects of ill-mental health for the sustainability of health systems and fostered mainstreaming of the topic across the EU initiatives, the IRAP’s Head of Science, Assoc. Prof. Viktor Mravčík reiterated that: “The objective of public policies in addictions is, not surprisingly, prevention and reduction of health and societal harms. Mental health and well-being play an important role not only as outcome indicators of these policies but also as factors decreasing vulnerability to addictions. They should be central in formulating modern addiction policy and regulatory frameworks.”
Director of IRAP
Institute for Rational Addiction Policies (IRAP) is a think-thank based in Prague, Czech Republic, which is a multi-disciplinary association of independent and reputable experts that studies the question of addiction from all sides including public and individual health, legislation and other legal effects, security matters, economics and market modelling, tax issues, effects on the state budget, education and prevention, social, sociological, and political questions. More information on IRAP can be found here.