There is no health without mental health. And there is no mental health without creating a friendly and inclusive environment for everyone, including marginalised and vulnerable people.
Cities in the EU see their role in addressing mental health as crucial, as they are close to their own communities. Local governments can therefore address mental health issues in an effective manner.
European Mental Health Week, which is taking place from 22 to 28 May, offers municipalities an additional opportunity for reflection on this issue. In its fourth edition, the event is organised by Mental Health Europe and aims to raise awareness about all aspects of mental health, highlighting the need for action.
On the occasion of European Mental Health Week, Eurocities has published a social trends study that summarises cities’ challenges and solutions in addressing mental health issues.
“Urban areas present a challenge for mental health, contributing to increased depression, anxiety disorders, and suicide. It is, therefore, essential to address mental health across all levels of government, including the local level,” the paper concludes.
“The wellbeing of a city is not solely measured by its infrastructure and economy but also by the social cohesion, mental health, and happiness of its inhabitants,” says Michaela Lednova, Eurocities Head of Social Affairs.
The study highlights the factors that can affect mental health and that are specific to the urban environment. It also states that cities can provide alternative treatments and complement national-level mental health services.
Recent negative trends that have affected mental health in cities include the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, high inflation, social media and cyberbullying.
“Mental health is not just an individual issue,” Lednova adds. “It is a collective responsibility of cities to create supportive environments that foster well-being and inclusive communities where no one is left behind.”
Based on responses from 27 cities which participated in the Eurocities survey early this year, it is clear that despite different needs, resources and national contexts, cities across the EU have shown sustained commitment to addressing their population’s mental health and wellbeing on political and programme levels.
Cities recognise the importance of addressing social and economic factors that can influence their inhabitants’ mental health, such as poverty, housing instability, employment access, and social isolation. The most affected groups include young people, women, migrants and refugees, people with disabilities, seniors, homeless people, and low-income individuals.
The responses offered by the municipalities need to be therefore, strategic, targeted, and integrated into a wide range of social and healthcare services, cities provide for their dwellers.