Tuesday 28 March 2023 | Brussels

The MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine and Health hosted the event 'Integrative Mental Health –  the way forward' in the European Parliament on Tuesday 28 March 2023.

Experts working at the intersection of Mental Health and Traditional, Complementary, and Integrative Medicine (TCIM) shared evidence-based solutions and explained the practical benefits of applying TCIM in this important area.

The role of TCIM – Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Nearly 125 million people in the WHO European region - equivalent to 13% of its population - were already living with mental illness before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, the pandemic has worsened the situation by increasing the rates of already-common conditions such as depression and anxiety by more than 25%. Mental health problems are becoming more and more serious and costly, whether they result from various factors, such as rising economic and social inequities, rapid societal, political, and environmental shifts or the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To address these challenges, Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine (TCIM) can play an important role in mitigating the effects of these developments on the human psyche. Among the array of available TCIM techniques, popular practices such as mindfulness or yoga training, and methods such as acupuncture, should be accessible to more people. By using these techniques, Europeans can equip themselves with enjoyable and effective tools for preventing ill mental health, improving their daily management of mental illness, and building up mental and physical resilience. Mental health is critically important to everyone, everywhere, and it is essential to recognize that there is no health without mental health, as WHO's Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus rightly argues.


MEP Interest Group Co-chair MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, Finland) explained that the Integrative Mental Health discussion is only starting, and that the Interest Group meeting is part of the preparations for developing an EU Mental Health Strategy.

She highlighted that COVID-19 had further amplified the challenges for mental wellbeing in Europe; depression rather than physical illness is now a leading cause for early retirement, and also leads to high suicide rates, especially among young people. Treatment, however, remains difficult: the effectiveness of antidepressants is poor, with less than a third of patients deriving the desired outcomes, commonly accompanied by substantial side effects. Moreover, mental health patients are often prescribed three different drugs for extended periods of time.

"No health without mental health"

MEP Manuela Ripa, Member of the MEP Interest Group Integrative Medicine and Health

"Defining a comprehensive approach to mental health"

Véronique Wasbauer, Principal Adviser for non-communicable diseases, Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety 

“Towards mental healthcare without labels and of relevance to users

Jim van Os MD PhD, Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Public Health at Utrecht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and Visiting Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at King’s College, Institute of Psychiatry, London. Read more.

“Integrative psychiatry; the best of both worlds”

Rogier Hoenders MD PhD, integrative psychiatrist, Head of Research and Clinical Affairs of the Centre for Integrative Psychiatry (CIP) of Lentis in Groningen, the Netherlands. Read more.

“Mind-body medicine for physical and mental health” (Joint presentation with Anna Paul)

Gustav Dobos MD PhD, Professor of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Head of the Department for Complementary and Integrative Medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. Read more.

Anna Paul, PhD (medical sciences/health sciences)head of the Department of Mind Body Medicine (MBM) in the Clinic for Naturopathy and Integrative Medicine section of Integrative Oncology and within the project of Integrative Psychosomatics at KEM / Evang. Kliniken Essen-Mitte, Germany. Read more.

"Stimulating coordinated action"

MEP Maria Walsh, Co-chair of the MEP Alliance for Mental Health

MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine and Health

The Interest Group promotes Integrative Medicine and Health in all European Parliament public health policies. Integrative Medicine and Health bring conventional biomedicine and complementary medicine together in a coordinated way, focuses on the whole person and considers the individual in their physical, psychological, spiritual, social and environmental context. It offers an inclusive approach that meets the demand of EU citizens for a holistic, patient-centred approach in medicine.

The event is hosted by the members of the MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health:

Sirpa Pietikäinen, EPP, Finland
Tilly Metz, Greens/EFA, Luxembourg
Manuela Ripa, Greens/EFA, Germany
Michèle Rivasi, Greens/EFA, France
Margrete Auken, Greens/EFA, Denmark
Romana Jerković, S&D, Croatia

More about the MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health can be read here.