The Kingdom of Belgium is a high-income country in northern Europe with an approximate area of 33 000 km2 and a population of 10.5 million. The proportion of the population under the age of 15 years is 17% and the proportion of the population above the age of 60 years is 22%. Life expectancy at birth is 75.2 years for males and 81.5 years for females. As a founding member of what is now the European Union, it hosts the headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as other major organisations, including NATO.
Belgium is divided into the Flemish-speaking region of Flanders, in the north, with 58% of the population, the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia, inhabited by 32%, and the Brussels capital region, officially bilingual, inhabited by 10% of the population. A small German-speaking community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium's linguistic diversity is reflected in the organisation of its psychiatric institutions and legislation.
Mental health policy
In Belgium, as both federal government and communities are in charge of different parts of the mental health service, there is both a national mental health policy, formulated in 1988, and a community mental health policy. A substance misuse policy is present which was initially formulated in 1921 and a national mental health programme was formulated in 1990 and updated in 1999.
Belgium has a suicide prevention policy, implemented by the Mental Health Centre in Brussels. It focuses on the quality of help offered and on the efficacy of the services from the network of providers in mental health and social care. The goals of the policy are: to optimise the care offered to clients at risk of suicidal behaviour; to develop networks to enable follow-up with at-risk patients; to lend support to and to share relevant knowledge with other carers; and to advocate for suicide prevention within local networks.
Belgium has a nationwide data-collection system or epidemiological study on mental health, known as the Minimum Psychiatric Dataset. There are specific programmes for mental health for minorities, refugees, disasteraffected populations, indigenous populations, the elderly and children.
Different organisations subsidised by public authorities exist in Wallonia, Brussels and Flanders.