Damning UNICEF reports reinforced MEP Maria Walsh’s campaign for EU Mental Health Strategy 

The UNICEF report, ‘The State of Children in the European Union’, published today reinforces the need for a dedicated EU Mental Health Strategy, Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh has said. 

Approximately 13% of young people under the age of 19 in the EU suffer from a mental health condition – with the statistic rising to almost one in five (19%) for those aged between 15-19. 

As part of the report, UNICEF is calling for a comprehensive mental health strategy which MEP Maria Walsh, a leading advocate on the issue at a European level, has campaigned for tirelessly since her election in 2019. 

MEP Maria Walsh, Co-Chair of the European Parliament’s Mental Health Alliance and the Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing, said: 

“Suicide is one of the leading causes of mortality for those aged between 15-19 in the EU, accounting for around one in six (17%) deaths. The reality behind these shocking statistics is that we have a mental health crisis impacting Irish young people and our European neighbours. 

Placing mental health on the European agenda has been one of my top priorities during my first term as an MEP. The recommendation from UNICEF for a dedicated mental health strategy to tackle the crisis facing our young people supports my long-running campaign for such an approach. 

“Along with my calls for a dedicated EU Mental Health Strategy, I have continually lobbied the European Commission, including on the need for an EU Year for Good Mental Health. Some progress has been made; I was glad to see UNICEF’s welcoming of the Commission’s Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health, adopted in June 2023, as a commendable step.

“However, with Irish young people aged 18-24 eight times more likely than older people to have a mental health disorder, the issue is far from being resolved. 

“There are a number of practical policies that must be taken at both Irish and EU levels. I want to see the integration of mental health into our national healthcare system, with the EU supporting this through funding, guidelines and best practice examples. We must also establish mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of mental health policies at an EU level, to ensure accountability and effectiveness across member states.”