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08/11/2010 - Submitted by: Tilia Bousios

Today, the Commissioner for Health and Consumers, John Dalli, together with Portuguese Minister of Health, Ana Jorge, and Minister of Labour and Social Solidarity, Maria Helena André, open the high-level conference "Promoting Social Inclusion and Combating Stigma for better Mental Health and Well-being" in Lisbon. This 2-day conference, organised by the European Commission and the Portuguese Ministry of Health in cooperation with the Portuguese Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity, is part of the European Pact for Health and Well-being and a key event in the calendar of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.

More than 200 experts in health and social fields are gathering to discuss how we can break the cycle of stigmatisation and discrimination due to mental health problems, and how social inclusion and social protection can prevent the onset of mental health problems.

The programme includes presentations of national and regional anti-stigma initiatives and strategies. Discussions on how to better protect the human rights and the access to employment of people with mental health problems are also on the agenda. Improving the coordination of health and social services and the provision of community-based and "socially-included" comprehensive care are other priority issues.

In Europe, there is still stigma surrounding mental health problems. This is illustrated in the recently published Eurobarometer on mental health. When asked how they would feel talking to someone with a significant mental health problem, 22% of respondents said that they would find it difficult and 11% were not sure how they would react. Also of concern is that progress in moving from an institutional model to community-based care still varies significantly between Member States.

Combating stigma and social exclusion is one of the five priority themes of the European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being. The Pact was launched in June 2008 and aims to highlight key areas in mental health and well-being through a series of high level conferences. Conferences on the themes of Mental Health in Youth and Education, Prevention of Depression and Suicide and Mental Health and Well-being and Older People were held in 2009 and 2010. The conference on the remaining theme of Mental Health in Workplace Settings will take place in Berlin in March 2011.

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