Headway – A new roadmap in Mental Health

Headway Mentalhealth 1030

The burden of mental health conditions is on the rise globally. Only in Europe, diverse forms of mental disorders affect nearly 40% of the total population annually, leading to premature mortality and impacting functioning and quality of life of both patients and their families.

Since the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic in 2020, anxiety and stress have increased significantly, whereas the overwhelming loss of family members and fear of contagion has contributed to thorough sadness and fear within the society. In addition to the latter, necessary lockdown measures and social isolation have caused important socio-economic impacts, inducing shared anxiety as businesses struggle to survive and individuals become at risk of loss of income and employment. As highlighted by WHO Director General in May 2020, the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on the mental health of the population is indeed extremely concerning.

Implementing social, physical and mental health care policies should thus be a priority for the European Health Systems, in order to increase the access to an overall quality of care. To this end, some countries have launched new policies and legislations in this area, and many are making progress running community-based mental health services, though there are still very significant differences across Europe.

Sharing local experiences and best practices in the mental health area is hence of paramount importance to optimize the framing, the diagnosis, the treatment and the necessary social integration of all patients.

In this context, Angelini Pharma activated the Headway initiative, in continuity and in coherence with programs, activities and plans of the World Health Organization and of international institutions and organizations.

The project started in 2018 in collaboration with the acclaimed Italian think tank The European House – Ambrosetti and aims to promote mental health in all areas - in accordance with the recent "Health in All Policies" approach promoted by the European Union - by stimulating the debate on social and health policies both at European and local level, encouraging the adoption of innovative pathways for diagnosis, treatment and social recovery. The ultimate goal is to advance the current paradigm of management and treatment of mental disorders, so that the social and health systems of each EU country can ensure adequate and effective treatment and care pathways and, at the same time, promote a better quality of life for patients enhancing legitimate social inclusion.

On October 9th, 2019, Headway first 2-year journey came to conclusion with a high-level Forum hosted by the EU Parliament. Among others, MEPs, European multidisciplinary experts and academics, health economists and patients’ associations representatives joined the event to discuss and share opinions and final recommendations.

Following the need to increase the awareness on mental during these difficult times, in October 2020 Angelini Pharma – supported by The European House - Ambrosetti – realized the “Headway Mental Health Week”, a week of events, debates and testimonials during which mental health experts, patient associations and citizens raised awareness on the issue of mental health to overcome the stigmatization that often accompanies mental illness.

In 2021, the aim of Headway has been to continue working at sharing knowledge and know how to prevent, diagnose, manage, and find solutions that reduce the burden of mental conditions not only in the healthcare sectors, but also in workplaces, schools and society in general.  To these ends, the European House - Ambrosetti in collaboration with Angelini Pharma has elaborated an analysis model on the performance of European countries in the field of mental health ("Headway Mental Health Index") with particular focus in the areas of Health, Society, School and Work, realized an institutional event on October 7th to present the "Headway Mental Health Index" in Brussels and has reactivated 2 multidisciplinary platforms in Italy and Spain, involving experts of the mental health across various sectors. 

In 2022, the goal of "Headway" was to update the model of analysis (New "Headway - Mental Health Index") integrating a new area that is the environmental context. The latter takes into account both the environmental (e.g., pollution, climate, etc.) and the physical context (e.g., natural disasters, security, crime, etc.). The updating of the data also captures the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, but also the current context characterized by the crisis in Ukraine. The latter results has been shared at an institutional event in Brussels on September 28th at the European Parliament.

As Chief Executive Officer, Pierluigi Antonelli said “This report refocuses international attention on the importance of environmental influences on mental health, such as climate change, economic recession or geopolitical crises like the war in the Ukraine. Mental disorders continue to impose an enormous social and economic burden on communities. Insights from the Mental Health Index 2.0 show that by 2030 mental health disorders will account for more than half of the global economic burden due to non-communicable diseases, which is why we need to act now!”