Over the past decade, attention has increasingly focused on the need to increase the capacity of mental health services. The World Health Report 2001 – Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope (World Health Organization, 2001) set the agenda, advocating the development of community-based mental health services. The case for scaling up, inspired by the World Health Organization's vision of ‘no health without mental health’, was powerfully argued first in the Lancet series in 2007 (Prince et al, 2007) and again in the Lancet in 2011 (Eaton et al, 2011). The forthcoming Global Mental Health Action Plan, requested in a resolution by member states of the World Health Organization at the 2012 World Health Assembly, is a great opportunity to formulate objectives and targets for countries, and to analyse experiences from around the world. The forthcoming European Action Plan builds on this, customising actions for European countries.