Over the last three decades, a system of European Union mental health governance (EUMHG) emerged, via instruments including strategies for action, joint actions, pacts and high-level expert groups. It sponsored multiple projects, initiatives and research, and involved state, non-state and European institutional actors. This paper attempts to understand how EUMHG operated and the structure of political relations within it, attending especially to opportunities for citizen participation. It adopts a global governmentality approach that focuses on practices and discourses. It finds that EUMHG practices including benchmarks, best practices and risk-thinking reinforced larger EU policy goals of market-optimisation, and that the central discourses of de-institutionalisation (DI) and community mental health (CMH) shifted meaning over time, first apprehending mental health as a public-health goal, then targeting mental ill-health as a burden to states. Finally, it finds that non-governmental organisations' (NGOs) work within EUMHG rendered them both objects and subjects of government. Through these dynamics, citizens usually were positioned outside governance, and NGO identities were altered, though CMH's transformative potential remained. Citizen participation in EUMHG was heavily conditioned. NGO and citizen power will need vigilant protection in any future EUMHG.