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Autism-Europe calls for mental health to be an EU priority

On 29 March 2024, Autism-Europe submitted its response to the consultation survey of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, which aims to inform the health priorities of the EU during 2024-2029. AE highlighted the need to include accessibility in healthcare provision, targeted autism services in health systems, and supported Mental Health Europe and other European NGOs in calling for mental health to be a key health priority for the EU.

Ahead of the European elections and the appointment of a new European Commission in 2024, the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies has published nine briefing papers to inform the EU’s priorities for health during the 2024-2029 period. Autism-Europe (AE) welcomes the attention given to core issues such as the transformation of the health and care labour market, a topic which we highlighted in 2023. However, we also join other civil society organisations in calling for mental health to be included as a core topic. To share this stance and advocate for the mental health needs of the autistic community, AE participated in the survey consultation of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.

Mental health has been established as a priority for the EU by the Commission itself in 2023 with the publication of the ‘Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health’ following Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech in 2022. Therefore, we regret it is not one of the nine core themes developed by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies for the Commission. We believe this should be amended, as mental health is a priority for society at large as well as for the autistic community. Research states that 70% of autistic people have a mental health condition (Meng-Chuan Lai et al., “Prevalence of co-occurring mental health diagnoses in the autism population: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” The Lancet Psychiatry 6, no. 10, 2019). We also know that the needs of the autistic population are not being adequately met in the general healthcare system.

AE drafted this response to the survey to highlight the importance of mental health and advocate for health systems that provide for the specific needs of the autistic community and uphold the highest standards of accessibility, safeguarding, and anti-discrimination, in line with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Access AE’s full response to the consultation here.