The European Commission has issued a Green Paper on Improving the Mental Health of the Population. The objective is to arrive at a European mental health strategy.
The Initiative is a collaborative effort with the World Health Organisation, whose own program, Nations for Mental Health is leaning towards the option of pharmaceutical intervention, perhaps not surprisingly - their report was sponsored by two major pharma manufacturers.
Image credit: Emma Holister (www.artmargin.com)
The EU Green Paper is intended to launch a debate with the European institutions, Governments, health professionals, stakeholders in other sectors, civil society including patient organisations, and the research community about the relevance of mental health for the EU, the need for a strategy at EU-level and its possible priorities.
Results and a set of recommendations should be available by the end of 2006, and according to this announcement by the EU Commission, contributions to the discussion should be submitted by the end of May 2006.
While the EU Green Paper is not overtly tending towards drug centered treatment, this may well creep in during the process. Certainly there is a strong economic incentive for pharma manufacturers to make use of this golden opportunity to firmly establish mind altering pharmaceutical drugs as the "treatment of choice".
It is interesting to note that although "poor nutrition" is mentioned in one of the annexes as a risk factor, no mention is made in the Green Paper of the connection between mental health and nutritional intervention as advocated for years by orthomolecular psychiatrists, or even of improving basic nutritional sufficiency as a strategy of prevention. The connection between nutrition and mental health has been unequivocally established and nutrition-based interventions are being pioneered, apparently with excellent results, in Canada, but no suggestion is made that such intervention could help the mentally ill in Europe.
Opportunity and Danger
I see in this at once, a danger and an opportunity and no, I'm not basing this on the common but apparently erroneous interpretation of the Chinese character for "crisis", which some believe incorporates the danger-opportunity dichotomy.
Danger because, if we do nothing and leave things to a hyperactive pharmaceutical lobby, we will certainly see more drug use on those unfortunate enough to be diagnosed as mentally ill, as well as a general deterioration into a more and more controlled society, initiating a vicious descending spiral.
On the other hand there is opportunity, because we have an ongoing process where input is invited and will at least be considered.
Those in the mental health community advocating drug-free approaches to behavioral and mental problems should put their heads together and come up with submissions that emphasise that drug treatment is not the preferred option and that real alternatives exist and have been shown to work.