Getting something passed unanimously by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is quite a coup. The fact that we’re talking about a Resolution on Mental Health and Human Rights, co-sponsored by 61 countries, is huge.
What does it say? What does it mean?
First- the technical talk: The UNHRC Resolution acknowledges that “persons with mental health conditions or psychosocial disabilities, in particular persons using mental health services, may be subject to, inter alia, widespread discrimination, stigma, prejudice, violence, social exclusion and segregation, unlawful or arbitrary institutionalization, overmedicalization and treatment practices that fail to respect their autonomy, will and preferences.”
What happens next is that the Resolution pushes for active anti-discrimination strategies that promote “the right of everyone to full inclusion and effective participation in society.” For all of us who take this for granted, think again.
From a human rights framework, individual autonomy prevails in decision making, requiring health systems to rethink involuntary hospitalization and forcible treatment, for example. A human rights framework urges us to challenge inequalities in services, eliminate segregation of care, and rethink the way health systems are constructed.
UNHRC Resolutions provide direction and inspiration. True change depends on nations to act, and although we’ve made significant progress to protect and support people with mental illness, we still have a long way to go. The current resolution reaffirms one adopted back in 1991. We can’t afford to wait another 25 years to translate this resolution into reality.
Here in the US, a historic bill to reform mental health care cleared the U.S. House of Representatives 422-2 this week. A similar bill, co-authored by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is now before the Senate. If you are an American citizen, now is the time to act – contact your elected officials and tell them you support these bills.
Wherever you are in the world, take action to make this UNHRC Resolution become reality.