Aims - There is growing demand for economic analysis to support strategic decision-making for mental health but the availability of economic evidence, in particular on system performance remains limited. The Mental Health Economics European Network (MHEEN) was set up in 2002 with the broad objective of developing a base for mental health economics information and subsequent work in 17 countries. Methods - Data on financing, expenditure and costs, provision of services, workforce, employment and capacity for economic evaluation were collected through bespoke questionnaires developed iteratively by the Network. This was augmented by a literature review and analysis of international databases. Results - Findings on financing alone suggest that in many European countries mental health appears to be neglected while mechanisms for resource allocation are rarely linked to objective measure of population mental health needs. Numerous economic barriers and potential solutions were identified. Economic incentives may be one way of promoting change, although there is no 'one size fits all solution. Conclusions - There are significant benefits and synergies to be gained from the continuing development of networks such as MHEEN. In particular the analysis can be used to inform developments in Central and Eastern Europe. For instance there is much that can be learnt on both how the balance of care between institutional and non-institutional care has changed and on the role played by economic incentives in ensuring that resources were used to develop alternative community-based systems.