This year, the focus of World Mental Health Day is Living with Schizophrenia. At a meeting held in the European Parliament on Tuesday, hosted by Nessa Childers MEP, key initiatives relevant to schizophrenia were highlighted. The critical role of carers was graphically described by Nadine Fossion, from the European Federation of Families of People with Mental Illness (EUFAMI). Her description of the dilemmas she faced when a member of her family was diagnosed with schizophrenia poignantly reinforced the recommendation from Schizophrenia: Time to Commit to Policy Change that concrete support, information and educational programmes need to be provided to families and carers on how to enhance care for an individual living with schizophrenia … in a manner that entails minimal disruption to their own personal lives. EUFAMI is currently conducting a European Family Carer survey; the preliminary results were presented by the Secretary General, Kevin Jones.
A report recently published by the OECD Health Policy Studies arm also featured in the programme: Making Mental Health Count: The Social and Economic Costs of Neglecting Mental Health Care1 is a detailed and informative collation of the findings from almost 3 years of qualitative and quantitative research. Here too there are echoes from the report by Fleischhacker et al., which recommends an integrated care package for people with schizophrenia that addresses their mental and physical health needs.
The role of the European Union in supporting mental health was outlined by Professor JM Caldas de Almeida, Coordinator of the EU Joint Action for Mental Health and Wellbeing. He too identified the need for integrated services and support for carers – and also the need for strong leadership. A concluding question and answer session was chaired my Dr Mary Baker MBE, Immediate Past President of the European Brain Council. Contrasting the progress in mental illness health policy with some other areas of medicines, her final question gives food for thought: are we more effective as ‘measured’ and objective advocates or as impassioned activists?
1. OECD (2014). Making Mental Health Count: The Social and Economic Costs of Neglecting Mental Health Care. OECD Health Policy Studies, OECD Publishing. Doi: 10.1787/9789264208445-en.