Is Mental Health a Human Right? World Mental Health Day 2023

World Mental Health Day falls on 10 October every year and every year the chosen theme aims to highlight or address an aspect of mental health. This year the theme is ‘Mental Health is a Human Right’. So what is a human right? And why is mental health one? MQ answers some questions you might be asking…

What is a human right?

Human rights, as defined by law, are the basic rights and freedoms belonging to each of us around the world, from the moment we are born until the moment we pass away. No matter where you live, where you were born, what belief system you hold or how you live your day-to-day life, all of us have the same human rights.

Our human rights are based on shared values of dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence. These values are protected legally in the UK by the Human Rights Act 1998.

There are certain ‘articles’ or points the are outlined in the Human Rights Act. These include:

  • Right to Life
  • Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Freedom from slavery and forced labour
  • Right to liberty and security
  • Right to a fair trial
  • No punishment without law
  • Respect for private and family life, home and correspondence
  • Freedom of thought, belief and religion
  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of assembly and association
  • Right to marry and start a family
  • Protection from discrimination

Then come the protocols, related to these points above. These include: the right to peaceful enjoyment of your property, right to education, to participate in free elections, abolition of the death penalty.

Who are human rights for?

Human rights are not just for those who are repressed, badly treated or experiencing difficulty. Human rights exist for us all.

Human rights have been around for a very long time. In fact, they’ve been in development in the UK for hundreds of years. In the year 1215, the Magna Carta was one of the first moments of development for human rights, in 1689 the Bill of Rights took a big step forward in helping define human rights further and now we live with the 1998 Human Rights Act.

Everyone is protected by human rights. Thanks to these we all have the right to our own opinions, express our own opinions, to have an education, to privacy, to a family life or our choosing, to be treated fairly and to not be punished by Governments without fair reason.

Global Threats to Human Rights and Restrictions

Human rights exist to be upheld by the law. In theory this should mean human rights cannot be taken away, although it’s important to note that across the world some human rights are under threat.

Human rights exist to be upheld by the law. In theory this should mean human rights cannot be taken away, although it’s important to note that across the world some human rights are under threat.

Certain countries such as Libya, North Korea and Sudan have been called into question for violating human rights. In addition, certain groups in certain countries are facing worsening threats to their human rights such as women’s rights in Afghanistan. In 2020 there were six United Nations states where the death penalty was legal for consensual same sex sexual acts.

In the UK, however, our human rights are upheld by law and cannot be removed, although they can sometimes be restricted for example if a person:

  • acts illegally
  • are considered a danger to their own health or safety or the health and safety of others.

If someone is considered a danger to themselves or others, they can be detained, committed or sectioned under the mental health act.

Why is mental health a human right?

We all have the above human rights. Yet being human invariably means struggles with the very experience of being human. This relates to mental health. Mental illnesses affect our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Therefore they are related to our human rights and our human rights affect our mental health.

Mental health is health. Our human rights exist to protect us, our lives therefore our health, both mental and physical health, safety and security.

Mental health is a human right because, without a healthy mind, why have a healthy body?

Essentially, human rights are boundaries put in place to protect our values and principles agreed as inherent to us all from birth to death. Mental health is healthiest with healthy boundaries put in place. Boundaries are a bedrock of a healthier mind and body.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ‘health’ is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not simply a lack of illness.

This holistic idea of health is new to many. Over 70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights posed ‘health’ as “the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being”. This holistic approach is not new to MQ however, who have championed and called for a holistic approach to mental health since our foundation a decade ago.

Why focus on mental health and human rights now?

In a 2018 report on the right to mental health, the UN right to health expert said that although evidence showed health cannot exist without mental health, there is no country in the world where mental health is equal to physical health in any area including budgeting, education or medical practice.

The World Health Organisation estimated in 2014 that worldwide only 7% of health budgets were allocated to aid mental health and in lower-income countries, less than $2 is spent per person on mental health each year.

So, when 1 in 4 of us will experience mental illness in our life, why is so little given to mental health improvement? The answer may be what the theme of World Mental Health Day is addressing – persistent stigma and discrimination. This is in violation of one of our human rights, ‘protection from discrimination’.

Human Health and Human Rights

Mental health and human rights are inextricably linked in many ways. For example, around one question which a 2019 research paper asked outright, do involuntary psychiatric interventions violate international human rights law?

The paper highlighted that combining different fields of mental health – such as MQ has done and continues to do – is vital. MQ host mental health science meetings to help connect different fields of science, for example our 2022 science festival.

The 2019 paper noted that we have an opportunity to innovate how we approach mental health, to liberate not just users of mental health services but the entire field of mental health from a long history of stigma and discrimination – which links back to Article 15 of the human rights acts, right for protection against discrimination.

In recent years there has been movement towards viewing disability in a social model (or human rights approach) and not in a medical model. This means viewing disability as a societal problem, not exclusively a medical science issue. This relates to mental health because ‘disability’ can include mental health conditions that have a long-term adverse effect on someone’s life.

To put it another way, someone with a disability of mental illness has a condition. A social model of disability would say their condition is just that – their condition. Their condition is not their disability. Their disability is how society treats them. This might relate to stigma, discrimination, lack of treatment or medical knowledge about their condition, access to treatment, fair and reasonable adjustments to help them live a full and productive life.

It has been argued that this adjustment has advantages, including shining a light on the many social, political and economic factors that create disparities for people with mental health conditions or psychosocial disability.

What is MQ doing for mental health as a human right?

MQ shines a light on these inequalities, thus fighting for the human rights of those with mental illnesses. We do so by:

Mental health is a human right. MQ facilitates research into mental health to fight, protect and strengthen our human right to good mental health.

Help us fight for our shared right to mental health now.






s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window, document,’script’,
fbq(‘init’, ‘177421805922935’);
fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’);

Credit : Source Post

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

%d bloggers like this:
Shopping cart