Prof. Dr. Med. Peter Falkai
President of the European Psychiatric Association (EPA)
Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich
About 10% of the population in Europe has been reported to suffer from a mental disorder requiring treatment. The estimated number is even higher.1
About a third of European patients with mental disorders that require treatment have had an unfavourable outcome, leading to reduced functional capacity in their work and social lives. Reasons for this are the so-called residual symptoms, which are very difficult to treat with the currently available interventions. This leads to a significant burden for the individual, their caretakers and society as a whole.
Mental disorders belong to the ten most disabling human diseases in terms of measured “Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs)”, leading to enormous costs that go beyond €600 billion across the EU.2 Investment in research at the European level is too low, especially when compared to other diseases such as cardiovascular or oncological disorders.
Mental disorders belong to the ten most disabling human diseases in terms of measured “Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs)”, leading to enormous costs that go beyond €600 billion across the EU.2
Continuing mental health research
The industry seems to have lost its interest in research on new and more effective drugs for mental disorders, making the development costs even higher. A systematic understanding is needed on how to develop biomarker-guided treatments for significant subgroups of patients with mental disorders. Joint actions between academic psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry are crucial to overcome such a deadlock. Further investigation on the translational research chain and basic research are necessary for a functional understanding through animal and human models. This should be followed by structured, Randomized Control Trials (RTCs) and multicentre implementation clinical trials.
Coordinated practices must be adopted in national centres, ensuring sufficient expertise and resources. Some EU countries have implemented this model at national level; Germany for instance has set up eight national health centres encompassing mental health, as well as centres dedicated to other key health issues.3
 Costs are particularly high for Schizophrenia, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). According to the latest Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates, more than one in six people across EU countries (17.3%) had a mental health problem in 2016 – that is, nearly 84 million people. Severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorders affect almost 5 million people (1.0% of the population), while schizophrenic disorders affect another estimated 1.5 million people (0.3%).
 OECD Health at a Glance Report, 2018
 Other health issues covered by the national health centres in Germany include cancer, cardiovascular and lung diseases, infectious diseases, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and paediatric health.