World Mental Health Day 2015

Dignity and mental health

Thousands of people with mental health conditions around the world are deprived of their human rights. They are not only discriminated against, stigmatised and marginalised but are also subject to emotional and physical abuse in both mental health facilities and the community. Poor quality care due to a lack of qualified health professionals and dilapidated facilities leads to further violations.

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day, observed on 10 October, is “Dignity in mental health”. This year, WHO is raising awareness of what can be done to ensure that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, through human rights oriented policy and law, training of health professionals, respect for informed consent to treatment, inclusion in decision-making processes, and public information campaigns.

What is dignity?

Dignity refers to an individual’s inherent value and worth and is strongly linked to respect, recognition, self-worth and the possibility to make choices. Being able to live a life with dignity stems from the respect of basic human rights including:

• freedom from violence and abuse;
• freedom from discrimination;
• autonomy and self-determination;
• inclusion in community life; and
• participation in policy-making

The dignity of many people with mental health conditions is not respected

• Frequently they are locked up in institutions where they are isolated from society and subject to inhumane and degrading treatment.

• Many are subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect in hospitals and prisons, but also in their communities.

• They are very often deprived of the right to make decisions for themselves. Many are systematically denied the right to make decisions about their mental health care and treatment, where they want to live, and their personal and financial affairs.

• They are denied access to general and mental health care. As a consequence, they are more likely to die prematurely, compared with the general population.

• They are often deprived of access to education and employment opportunities. Stigma and misconceptions about mental health conditions means that people also face discrimination in employment and are denied opportunities to work and make a living. Children with mental health conditions are also frequently excluded from educational opportunities. This leads to marginalisation and exclusion from employment opportunities in later life.

• They are prevented from participating fully in society. They are denied the possibility to take part in public affairs, to vote or stand for public office. They are not given the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes on issues affecting them, such as mental health policy and legislative or service reform. In addition, access to recreational and cultural activities is often denied to people with mental health conditions.

How can we promote the rights and dignity of people with mental health conditions? In the healthcare system we need to provide better support and care for people with mental health conditions by:

• providing community-based services, encompassing a recovery approach that inspires hope and supports people to achieve their goals and aspirations;

• respecting people’s autonomy, including their right to make their own decisions about their treatment and care; and

• ensuring access to good quality care which promotes human rights, is responsive to people’s needs, and respects their values, choices and preferences.

In the community we need to:

• support people with mental health conditions to participate in community life, and acknowledge the value of their contribution;

• respect their autonomy to make decisions, for themselves, including about their living arrangements and personal and financial matters;

• ensure their access to employment, education, housing, social support and other opportunities; and

• include people in decision-making processes on issues affecting them, including policy, legislation and health service reform relating to mental health.

The QualityRights project

Through the QualityRights project, WHO is committed to ensuring that the dignity of people with mental health conditions is respected all around the world.

WHO QualityRights promotes dignity by:

• Advocating for political and social inclusion – working collaboratively with governments, health professionals, families and people with mental health conditions to ensure that the views of the latter are heard and listened to at policy, service and community levels.

• Promoting a recovery approach to mental health care – This means much more than merely treating or managing symptoms. It is about building the capacity of mental health workers to support people with mental health conditions to realise their hopes and dreams, to work, to enjoy family and friends, and to live a full and rewarding life in their community.

• Supporting human rights training and capacity building – QualityRights has developed training programmes to build the capacity of families and healthcare professionals to understand and promote the rights of people with mental health conditions, and to change attitudes and practices towards them.

• Encouraging the creation and strengthening of peer support and civil society organizations – QualityRights is helping people with mental health conditions and families feel connected through mutually supportive relationships and empowering them to advocate for the rights and dignity of people with mental health conditions.

 Date of upload: 16th Nov 2015


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