Revolution needed in mental sickness care: UN expert

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Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, at the UN Human Rights Council. His latest reports notes a “near total policy failure to promote mental health holistically for all”. Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

A crisis in global mental health care linked to "decades of … abuse" should be addressed by Member States, a leading human rights expert has said.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Puras, made his comments at the organisation's Human Rights Council.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Outdated attitudes on mental health have resulted in a crisis of "neglect, abuse and violence" at a global level, Danius Puras insisted at the Human Rights Council.

Too many Member States continued to rely too heavily on the "excessive use of psychotropic medicines", the Special Rapporteur on the right to health told the 47-member body in Geneva.

So-called "biomedical gatekeepers" maintained this status quo, Mr Puras insisted:

"These gatekeepers, reinforced by the pharmaceutical industry, maintain the power based on two outdated and scientifically unsound concepts: that people experiencing mental distress and diagnosed with mental disorders are dangerous and that biomedical interventions are in most cases necessary."

Mr Puras said there was a "grossly unmet" need for rights-based care and support for the mentally ill, whose voices were not being taken into account by policy makers.

In his latest report, the Special Rapporteur notes that mental sickness receives less than seven per cent of health budgets worldwide; in lower-income countries, less than US$2 per person is spent annually on it.

To change this "paternalistic and excessively medicalized" approach, the expert called on States and psychiatrists to act with courage" so that mental health becomes a mainstream issue.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’23″


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