“We should take better care of each other. And for many who feel anxious and lost, appropriate, accessible and affordable support can make all the difference,” the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated, anticipating the priorities included in the EU’s executive branch Work Programme for 2023 published on 18 October. Among them, as anticipated already during her State of the Union (SOTEU) speech on 14 September, is a new initiative on mental health, a direct follow-up to calls coming from citizens during the one-year-long Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) process. The 9th proposal of the CoFoE is about “a broader understanding of health” and the first measure demands to “improve understanding of mental health issues and ways of addressing them.”
While culture is never explicitly addressed among the priorities of the new Commission’s Work Programme, mental health is, nonetheless, one of the strategic areas where it could give a dramatic contribution. If it is given the opportunity – and the recognition.
“We need commitment from all actors throughout our societies in research, employment, and media. We need to show how business, sport and education can constructively contribute”, the EU’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said, while not giving more concrete examples of what this strategic guidance would entail. As per this short statement, culture is currently missing as a pillar of the strategy, despite the ongoing Voices of Culture structural dialogue on Youth, Mental Health and Culture, ending in one month, and other major initiatives, such as the EU-funded CultureForHealth project, led by CAE, which focuses on how cultural activities can support illness prevention, health promotion, and the treatment of health conditions.
If the Commission does not include practices such as social prescribing, which are already established in the Nordics, as well as in the UK, the EU Mental Health Strategy risks being outdated. Given the serious capacity shortages and long waiting lists in the psychosocial support systems, arts and cultural interventions can provide a powerful, cost-effective, complementary and person-centred tool approach.
Parts of this evidence will be showcased in the CultureForHealth report to be officially launched in mid-November.
Do not miss the opportunity to be informed about interventions currently happening within cultural and health and well-being sectors, as well as the report’s set of policy recommendations.
Join the CultureForHealth Report Launch online presentation on 24 November 2022 at 10:00 CET – register HERE.