European Union Germany is the 'best' at integrating people with mental illness into the community, closely followed by the UK, according to a pan-European study.

The research, which assessed the degree of commitment to integrating those with mental illnesses into their communities across 30 countries – the European Union plus Switzerland and Norway – looked at 5 key areas: medical provision, human rights, stigma, the ability to live a fulfilling family life and employment. It was commissioned by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV.

It concluded that Germany, the UK and Denmark are most able to respond to the needs of people who experience mental illness thanks to "strong healthcare system and generous social welfare programmes".

Overall, the index found that scores correlate strongly with the proportion of GDP spent on mental health. Those countries at the top of the index have also moved treatment and support for mental illness away from hospital-based care to care which includes integration within society.

The study indicated 5 key areas where action is needed to better integrate people experiencing mental illness into their communities: 

Obtaining better data

Providing funding appropriate to the task and acknowledging the potential savings from long-term investment

Finishing deinstitutionalisation – long-stay institutions should not be the core element of mental health provision 

Providing integrated, community-based services, particularly domiciliary care and home visits 

Integrated employment as a key component of recovery. 

Aviva Freudmann, research director at EMEA's Economist Intelligence Unit, which conducted the study, said: "Mental illness is among Europe’s most difficult, complex and yet least-addressed issues. Europe has long faced substantial challenges when dealing with mental illness. Thirty-eight percent of Europeans suffer from such a condition at some point in any given year. 

"The countries with the best results tend to be in the north and west of Europe, whereas the weakest are largely in the southeast, which can be attributed to low levels of investment and state treatment for those with mental illness. However, those countries that have ranked highly are still far from perfect in delivering care and integrating those with mental health problems into society.

"True integration will require a transformation in understanding mental illness and overcoming stigma. Perhaps the most important finding from this index is therefore that its top countries share a long term, widely supported, commitment to change. Once that is in place across all Europe, progress may be slow, but it will follow."

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