Community mental health services are the key to improving mental health systems in Europe. Over 50 years they have supported and treated persons with mental ill heath in their own setting, at home, at work, in the street, instead of in a psychiatric hospital. The organization of community mental health services varies depending on the country or region in which the services are provided. Community mental health teams integrate medical and social interventions and form a network of care, including supported housing, psychiatric hospital wards, primary care medical services, day centres or clubhouses, community mental health centres, and self-help groups for mental health.

Throughout Europe mental health care is in a time of transition that matches well with the principles of community mental health care with a focus on citizenship, e-health, recovery and an increase of effective interventions. Patients who are treated for a disorder have become citizens who want professional support in their self-management. E-mental health provides complementary ways of addressing needs, in which the contacts between professional and patient have become independent of time and place.

Thanks to the user movement, the recovery approach has become an integrative paradigm at both the person and the system level. Recovery is a unique, individual process, which can be described best as a journey. The mental health services can be seen as a companion on this journey. A key factor of supporting recovery is offering hope and our task is to always ask ourselves: ‘Do we help or hinder?’. The focus goes from what’s wrong to what’s strong.

There is a marked increase of evidence based biological, psychological and social interventions. These are often summarized in clinical guidelines. The task of community mental health services is to give access to these interventions for persons in the community and to integrate evidence based practices with the principles of recovery oriented care.

With all these transitions community mental health itself is in a process of change. The variation in practice is substantial. Some regions are already well underway in this journey and have learned about the challenges while other regions still have to make the first steps of deinstitutionalization. All organisations in different stages of development are welcome in our network as long as they share our values and ambitions.

EUCOMS unites mental health services throughout Europe, that want to use their expertise to enrich the community and support the wellbeing of citizens. Based upon overarching principles, we aim to build regional models, that account for the variation in the state of the existing services, the demographics of a region, the political situation and the available resources. EUCOMS supports implementation, organizes exchange and will actively influence European policy.
Together we can make the difference for and with our clients!

Sincerely yours,

Dr. René Keet
Director Community Mental Health Service Noord-Holland-Noord
Chair of the EUCOMS Network