Embargo: 00:01 Tuesday 24 April 2007

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659


The House of Lords European Union Committee have today called on the Government and the EU to provide greater protection from discrimination for people with mental health problems. This should include recognising mental health problems as being covered by current anti-discrimination disability legislation.

In their report ' Improving the Mental Health of the Population: Can the European Union Help?' The Committee look in detail at the European Commission's October 2005 Green Paper on an EU strategy for mental health and consider whether there is a role for the EU in improving the mental well-being of the European population.

The Committee state that people suffering from mental health problems often face discrimination in health services and employment. They can experience ridicule, prejudice and stigmatisation, which may lead to social exclusion and discourage people from seeking treatment.

A significant improvement in the position of those with mental health problems in the UK could be achieved by recognising that mental health problems come within the scope of anti-discrimination legislation relating to disability. This should be monitored and enforced so that sufferers do not face the added disadvantage of discrimination in the workplace, which can lead to unemployment and increase the risk of long term social exclusion. The Committee argue that the EU should encourage member states that do not already have anti-discrimination legislation to introduce it.

The report quotes estimates from the European Commission that 1 in 4 adult Europeans experience mental health problems and 58,000 EU citizens commit suicide each year, a figure that is higher than the total deaths from road accidents across the EU.

In the United Kingdom alone, mental health problems are estimated to cost over £77 billion every year, and a mental health problem is also now the most common reason for someone claiming incapacity benefit.

The Committee conclude by stating that the EU does have an important role to play in facilitating the exchange of information and best practice across Europe. The EU could also help to ensure that action in relation to mental health looks beyond the specialised role of health services and addresses the wider social and economic policy implications.

Due to the diversity of circumstances and provision across member states, the Committee does not favour the imposition of minimum standards for mental health provision. However, it does support the development, with the World Health Organisation, of a set of principles which member states should work towards.

Commenting Baroness Thomas of Walliswood, Chair of the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Social Policy and Consumer Affairs, said:

"We are pleased that the EU has decided to look in detail at what is an important issue for citizens across Europe. The Commission estimates that every year a quarter of Europeans suffer from mental health problems, so this is far from a marginal issue."

"People suffering from conditions as diverse as depression or anxiety right through to schizophrenia must be able to seek help without fear of discrimination or social stigma. It is vital that in the UK mental health problems are recognised as coming within the scope of anti-discrimination legislation, so that people do not lose their jobs or become excluded from services when seeking help for their condition. This is crucial for preventing social exclusion."

"The EU has an important role to play in promoting best practice and the sharing of information among member states. This role should be alongside the more specialised roles of the WHO and the legislative and policy-making responsibilities of national governments".

"We hope that the Commission will build on their 2005 Green Paper to help ensure those with mental health problems get the support they deserve."

Notes to Editors

1. The report is published by The Stationery Office, Improving the Mental Health of the Population: Can the European Union Help?, House of Lords European Union Sub-Committee G (Social Policy and Consumer Affairs), 14th Report of 2006/7, HL Paper 73-I

2. The report will be available shortly after publication at:

3. The member of the Lords Sub Committee G are:

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood ( Chair)

Lord Colwyn

Earl of Dundee

Baroness Gale

Baroness Greengross

Lord Harrison

Baroness Howarth of Breckland

Baroness Morgan of Huyton

Lord Moser

Baroness Neuberger

Lord Trefgarne

Baroness Uddin

Lord Wade of Chorlton

For copies of the report or to request an interview with Baroness Thomas of Walliswood, please contact Owen Williams, Committee Press Office on 020 7219 8659.