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Combating stigma and discrimination in relation to mental health

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Combating stigma and discrimination in relation to mental health

In these conclusions, the Council stresses the impact of problems associated with stigma and discrimination in relation to mental illness. Mental health problems may in fact increase the risk of social exclusion, and stigma and discrimination have an adverse effect on the course and outcome of the mental illness.

The Council thus calls for specific measures to improve social inclusion and to tackle discrimination and stigma.


Conclusions of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council of 2/3 June 2003 on combating stigma and discrimination in relation to mental health.



Stigma in relation to mental illness has a negative impact on equality and social inclusion, and therefore has implications for health protection. There is evidence that stigma has a deleterious effect on the course and outcome of mental illness and on the quality of life of the persons affected and of their families.

Actions and awareness

It is important to promote effective actions across all relevant policies to increase social inclusion and equity and to combat discrimination and stigma. There is also a need to raise public awareness of the issue of mental health and the problems associated with stigma and discrimination in this area.

Integration and reintegration

Access to appropriate and effective treatment and to the labour market, education and other public services are essential factors in facilitating the integration and reintegration of people with mental illness into society.

Actions in the Member States

Member States are requested to:

  • give specific attention to the impact of stigma and discrimination-related problems due to mental illness in all age groups, and ensure that these problems are recognised, in this context giving special attention to the reduction of risks of social exclusion;
  • collect data on the health, economic and social consequences of stigma due to mental illness;
  • undertake action to combat stigma and promote social inclusion in active partnership and dialogue with all the stakeholders to encourage an integrated and coordinated approach.

Actions at Commission level

In order to reduce stigma and discrimination in relation to mental illness, the Commission is requested to:

  • give specific attention to active collaboration in all relevant Community policies and actions, and in particular in activities relating to employment, non-discrimination, social protection, education and health;
  • undertake activities to facilitate the exchange of information and mutual learning in the context of national policies to ensure health protection for people with mental health problems, giving special attention to combating stigma and discrimination and to promoting social inclusion for people with mental illness.


These conclusions follow on from the conference organised by the Council Presidency on "Mental Illness and Stigma in Europe: facing up the challenges of social inclusion and equity", which was held in Athens from 27 to 29 March 2003.

The Council Conclusions are based on a series of measures directly or indirectly related to the issue of mental health, including:

  • the Council Resolution of 18 November 1999 on the promotion of mental health, which inter alia invited the Commission to consider incorporating activities on the theme of mental health in future action programmes for public health;
  • the Council Resolution of 29 June 2000 on action on health determinants;
  • the Council Conclusions of 5 June 2001 on a Community strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm, which underline the close link between alcohol abuse, social exclusion and mental illness;
  • the Council Conclusions of 15 November 2001 on combating stress and depression-related problems;
  • the Community action programme to combat discrimination (2001-2006) which emphasises inter alia the particular needs of people with disabilities;
  • the programme of Community action in the field of public health (2003-2008), which is intended to contribute to ensuring a high level of health protection and to tackling inequalities in this area.


Commission Green Paper of 14 October 2005, "Improving the mental health of the population. Towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union" [COM(2005) 484 final - Not published in the Official Journal]. In this Green Paper the Commission opens up the issue of mental health for wide debate. The aim is to launch public consultation on how to improve the management of mental illness and to promote mental well-being in the EU.

Council conclusions of 15 November 2001 on combating stress and depression-related problems [Official Journal C 006 of 09.01.2002]. These conclusions highlight the fact that stress and depression-related problems and their intergenerational transmission are of major importance to all age groups.

Council Resolution of 18 November 1999 on the promotion of mental health [Official Journal C 86 of 24.03.2000]. In its resolution, the Council called on the Commission to:

  • seek to include activities on mental health in the future programme of action on public health;
  • develop and implement measures on mental health as part of the Community system of health monitoring and draw up a report on mental health;
  • analyse the impact of Community activities in the field of mental health on sectors such as education, youth, social affairs and employment;
  • examine, after consultations with the Member States, the need to draw up a proposal for a Council recommendation on the promotion of mental health.

The Member States were also requested to take action in this field by promoting mental health and preventing mental illness, encouraging the exchange of best practice and information, promoting joint projects with other Member States, and furthering and supporting research into mental health and its promotion.

Last updated: 09.02.2006