ESCAP reaching out to the European Commission for action for CAP

Mental health and illness of children and the long way back after COVID-19

In July 2021, ESCAP policy division lead professor Joerg Fegert and president professor Dimitris Anagnostopoulos sent letters to various European Commission departmental members to reiterate the powerful impact COVID-19 is having on our children, adolescents, and their families. These follow on from previous exchanges with EU president Ursula von der Leyen, and ESCAP Policy Statements in April 2020 and March 2021 on the initial and continual impact of COVID-19 on children and adolescents throughout Europe.

ESCAP is very concerned about the mental health development of children and adolescents after more than a year of this very stressful pandemic phase. The consequences of school closures have been heavily discussed (1), and less attention has been paid to socio-emotional needs (2-4). There has been an increase in anxiety, depression, eating disorders or nutritional problems, and problems coping with stress that have been reported across Europe (5). With the resumption of school operations, children and adolescents have the chance for the first time, to turn to adults or classmates if they are looking for help; especially in cases such as domestic violence, child abuse or sexual abuse. As expected, major challenges in the area of "Children’s Mental Health" will become more evident and will need more attention by the end of the pandemic in autumn and winter 2021/2022 and in the next few years.

What ESCAP is hoping to push forward?

  • All groups in the European Parliament should support the idea of a conference or hearing regarding the subject of "Children and adolescent mental health and the long way back to normality.”
  • It is important for children, adolescents, families and the specialists working with them to hear back from the European Parliament on the actions being taken to reduce the COVID-19 burden.
  • Support adolescents in catching up on their autonomy development deficits.
  • To build stronger networks and better communications among organisations throughout Europe supporting the mental health of children and adolescents.
  • Create more visibility for ESCAP and other organisations so families, specialists and any allied professionals know where to find relevant information.
  • Offer funding support to these organisations so they can boost their resources and arrange more networking events.

Responses from the European Commission

We kindly received a response from Ms. Stella Kyriakides, a member of the European Commission for food and health safety. She bought several key initiatives to our attention that we were not aware of:

  • A dedicated network place on the Health Policy Platform, which aims to support stakeholders from the social and health sector in their efforts to tackle the pandemic’s mental health impact.
  • A virtual event held in May 2021 on the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is available online for free on their website Mental health and the pandemic: living, caring, acting!
  • EU4Health 2021 Annual Work Programme will support transfer of practices to tackle COVID19-related mental health challenges, and reward community-based initiatives alleviating the pandemic’s mental health impact.
  • Under the third Health Programme’s 2020 Annual Work Plan a new Joint Action on Mental Health, expected to kick off in October 2021, will implement a multi-level national suicide prevention programme and a system reform to strengthen client-centered community-based services. This new action will include a specific focus on services for children and young people.

These initiatives are fantastic and will inevitably make a difference for mental health awareness throughout Europe. What surprised us was that as the European society for child and adolescent psychiatry and having members of our board actively involved in policy and advocacy, this was the first time we had been invited to these platforms or were made aware of them. What is clear is that more visibility of all these initiatives, societies and organisations pushing for change and resources in the field of child and adolescent mental health is warranted. We hope using our network and joining others we can support these initiatives and create more.

We thank Ms. Kyriakides for her essential advice and pointing these items out to us and hope for a fruitful collaboration with her and her colleagues in the future.

We strongly recommend for our ESCAP community members to share this information, make us aware of other initiatives that we can support and come together during these times to offer the best for our children and adolescents.

At the ESCAP 19th International congress in Maastricht, June 19-21 2022, we will have a dedicated policy discussion session on issues related to COVID-19 and the health impact on children, adolescents and their families. More information to follow. Maastricht ESCAP congress 2022 | ESCAP



  1. Vera Clemens, Peter Deschamps, Jörg M. Fegert, Dimitris Anagnostopoulos, Sue Bailey, Maeve Doyle, Stephan Eliez, Anna Sofie Hansen, Johannes Hebebrand, Manon Hillegers, Brain Jacobs, Andreas Karwautz, Eniko Kiss, Konstantinos Kotsis, Hojka Gregaroic Kumperscak, Milica Pejovic-Milovancevic, Anne Marie Raberg Christensen, Jean-Philippe Raynaud, Hannu Westerinen & Piret Visnapuu-Bernadt. Potential effects of "social" distancing measures and school lockdown on child and adolescent mental health. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2020; 6 pp. 739-742.

  2. Jörg M. Fegert, Benedetto Vitiello, Paul Plener & Vera Clemens. Challenges and burden of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic for child and adolescent mental health: a narrative review to highlight clinical and research needs in the acute phase and the long return to normality. In: Child & Adolescent Psychiatry & Mental Health 14, 2020, pp. 1-11

  3. Franziska Köhler-Dauner, Vera Clemens, Katherina Hildebrand, Ute Ziegenhain & Jörg M. Fegert. The interplay between maternal ACE´s, parental coping strategies as well as endangered parenting behavior during the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. In: Developmental Child Welfare. 2021, 2; pp. 71-84

  4. Vera Clemens, Petra Beschoner, Marc N. Jarczok, Katja Weimer, Maximilian Kempf, Eva Morawa, Franziska Geiser, Christian Albus, Susan Steudte-Schmiedgen, Harald Gündel, J.M. Fegert, Lucia Jerg-Bretzke. The mediating role of Covid-19-related burden in the association between adverse childhood experiences and emotional exhaustion: results of the egePan - VOICE Study. Accepted for publication in European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2021.

  5. Alexis Revet, Johannes Hebebrand, Dimitris Anagnostopoulos, Laura A. Kehoe, Gertraud Gradl-Dietsch, COVID-19 Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Consortium & Paul Klauser. Perceived impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child and adolescent psychiatric services after 1 year (February/March 2021): ESCAP CovCAP survey. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2021.

See also: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health (CAPMH, official journal of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions) thematic series: Child and adolescent mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. Edited by: Anna Ordóñez, Andreas Witt, Andrés Martin, Jörg M. Fegert

See also the ESCAP Policy Papers: April 2020 and March 2021