Researchers Focus on Human Rights Approach to People with Mental Health Issues

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From Mad in America: A group of researchers have published an article in the World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation Bulletin. In the article, they discuss the human rights violations faced by people with psychosocial disabilities in mental healthcare systems.

Psychosocial disability is a term used to describe the difficulties caused by a combination of psychological and social factors. It’s the impact of mental health issues on a person’s ability to function in life, on personal relationships, work, education, and participation in the community. For example, someone’s extreme anxiety might make it difficult for them to work.

The researchers propose a recovery-centered approach, using the World Health Organization’s Quality Rights initiative, to protect the rights of people with disabilities

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) aims to stop discrimination against people with disabilities, including those with mental health issues. Often people with mental health difficulties are forced into inhumane treatment against their will or choice. This strips them of their rights and dignity.

The CRPD says that a person should be able to make their treatment choices without forced confinement. This means that the current mental healthcare systems will have to be changed. These systems are right now based on a biomedical model (meaning they think of psychological distress as a disease) but will have to be changed to a social model.

People with mental health diagnoses are often treated badly by other people and institutions. However, psychosocial approaches, like recovery-oriented treatment, have reduced stigma. A psychosocial approach looks at mental health problems as suffering caused by psychological and social factors. For example, a person might be depressed because of stress from loan payments, or could be anxious because of terrible competition around exams. These problems are not seen as diseases (biomedical model) to be treated by medicines, but as caused by the psychological and social situations in one’s life.

The article focuses on mental healthcare in Norway, which has made progress but still has some problematic ideas of the biomedical model. The authors instead focus on a recovery perspective, which involves things focusing on things such as connectedness (relationships are important to recover), hope (people should feel that there is a positive future if they are to recover), identity, meaning in life, empowerment (people having choice in their treatment and not being forced into it), and risk (allowing people to make mistakes and take risks in their life).

The authors write:

“It is imperative that we move away from societies and services that coerce people into complying with treatments or interventions they do not find helpful. Particularly when they may recreate the trauma of violence or control that many of our service users have already been victims of. Freedom, the right to make your own decisions, and taking back control of one’s own narrative is therapeutic and should be the cornerstone of all modern and progressive mental health services.”

The World Health Organization’s Quality Rights initiative supports quality mental healthcare and the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities. It talks about the stigma that these people face along with violence of involuntary and forced treatment, and supports sensible mental health policies.

It includes service user experiences in discussions – this means that people with the diagnoses, those who have been patients of the mental health systems, have a say in their treatment. It also promotes changes in law to align with the CRPD. The authors believe this approach can empower individuals and change attitudes towards psychosocial disability.

The authors talk about a “recovery framework” which says support for people who are suffering is important, not rigid treatments. It respects each individual’s right to pursue their own path to recovery and aims to improve lives. It also aims to decrease human rights violations in mental health systems worldwide – these violations are very common. For example, when people are given shock treatment against their will, or when they are sexually and physically assaulted in psychiatric hospitals.

The authors emphasize the importance of giving people freedom, control, and the ability to make their own decisions in progressive mental health services.

This article originally appeared in Mad in America and can be read here.

This is an AI generated version shortened and edited for a South Asian audience.


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