Psych Central

How can we use a human rights approach to help improve the lives of those with mental disabilities?

04/19/05



Bathroom in the Men’s Chronic Ward of Larco Herrera Hospital, a Government-Supported Psychiatric Hospital in Lima, Peru. (Photo: Mental Disability Rights International). An investigation of the men’s chronic ward, by MDRI and Asociacón Pro Derechos Humanos (a Peruvian non-profit organization that works towards human rights), found that “conditions were stark, the bathrooms filthy, and severe regimentation denied patients’ basic autonomy.”
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

In many countries, severely mentally disabled individuals become the targets of stigma, discrimination, and other human rights abuses. Routinely, children and adults with mental disabilities are arbitrarily detained in psychiatric facilities, social care homes, orphanages and other closed institutions. Out of public view, they are subject to the most extreme forms of inhuman and degrading treatment experienced by any population.

In this month's PLoS Medicine, Alicia Ely Yamin, human rights attorney, and Eric Rosenthal, Founder and Executive Director of Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), document some of the worst examples of the abuse of people in psychiatric institutions and argue that adopting a human rights framework would help to prevent such abuse.

In Kosovo, for example, MDRI learned that women were raped in psychiatric facilities in plain view of local staff and international humanitarian relief workers. In Hungary and Paraguay, MDRI found people locked in cages. In Turkey, Peru, and Bulgaria, MDRI investigators learned of a practice called "unmodified ECT"--the use of electroconvulsive therapy without any form of anaesthesia or muscle relaxants--a practice that is both painful and dangerous.

People with mental disabilities, say Yamin and Rosenthal, have the "rights to exercise agency in their own lives and to participate as members of their communities and societies, and these rights trump other concerns such as general attitudes toward risk containment in society." They argue that "the starting point of developing a human-rights based policy on mental health is that mentally ill individuals are full human beings who are entitled to rights. Although seemingly obvious, in practice MDRI has found that the implications of these premises challenge predominant biomedical approaches to mental illness, as well as health services paradigms."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.
~ Herman Melville
 
Stumble This Article Print Email
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Users Online: 10983
Join Us Now!



 




Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code