Today is World Human Rights Day. This year is particularly special since The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) turns 70. 70 years ago, the UDHR was adopted and set out for the first time fundamental human rights for everyone, including the ‘right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being’(Article 25).
Human rights are at the core of Mental Health Europe’s work: MHE believes in the transformative power of human rights as a tool not only for change within mental health services but for changing how we understand mental health.
We all have rights, we all have mental health: the two are undeniably intertwined, but until recently they had rarely been addressed together in the international arena. Today is a good day to take stock of progress on human rights and mental health: 10 years ago (2008), the ground-breaking UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) came into force reflecting a much-needed change of paradigm in our approach to mental health and the human rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities and mental health problems.
What is a change of paradigm in mental health?
In the past few years, MHE has been calling for a shift away from isolating mental health services which are coercive and inappropriately medicalised to services that are recovery-oriented, community-based and promote social inclusion.
MHE’s work is underlined and guided by the UN CRPD, which states that people with disabilities, including people with psychosocial disabilities, must fully enjoy their human rights. Most recently (2017 – 2018) and for the first time, ground-breaking reports on human rights and mental health have been released by international human rights bodies such as the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to mental health and on the right to mental health and people on the move, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on human rights and mental health, the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities on legal capacity reform and supported decision-making, the Resolution of the Human Rights Council on mental health and human rights.
These reports will not bring change on their own. Through our action and collaboration with the European institutions and international bodies, we need to ensure this progress on mental health and human rights yields concrete change in the coming years by taking the discussion about mental health and human rights to the next level. It is now time to implement this paradigm shift we have been talking about for so long. Promising practices across the world exist and can help pave the way to a system that supports people with mental health problems in ways that respect their human rights.
MHE continues to monitor the implementation of the UN CRPD by the EU, to make sure European policies reflect and respect the obligations to which the EU signed up when it ratified the Convention in 2010 and the recommendations it received from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in September 2015.
There is still much to do to achieve this paradigm shift in mental health services. While an increasing large community of users of services, mental health advocates and professionals call for a real change in our approach to care, everyday practice often hesitates to fully embrace the human rights approach to mental health. MHE would like to recall, once more, that one cannot bargain with human rights: Either they are respected and implemented in practice or they are not – there is very little in between.
Follow our work on human rights here: https://mhe-sme.org/what-we-do/human-rights/