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      Human rights in psychiatric practice: an overview for clinicians

      BJPsych Advances

      Royal College of Psychiatrists

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          Summary

          Matters relating to human rights arise in almost every area of psychiatric practice. Although some statements of rights are non-binding declarations (e.g. the United Nations' Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care), others are legally binding (e.g. the European Convention on Human Rights) and actively shape national laws. Persons with mental illness commonly experience violations of rights, including their economic and social rights. Psychiatrists can promote human rights through high-quality, evidence-based clinical practice; patient-centred service management; social awareness and engagement; and international activism to enhance protection and promotion of the rights of people with mental illnesses at global level.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Structural violence and schizophrenia.

           B. Kelly (2005)
          Despite clear evidence of a substantial biological basis to schizophrenia, there is also evidence that social, economic and political factors have considerable relevance to the clinical features, treatment and outcome of the illness. Individuals from lower socio-economic groups have an earlier age at first presentation and longer durations of untreated illness, both of which are associated with poor outcome. Individuals with schizophrenia are over-represented in the homeless population. Migration is associated with increased rates of mental illness, including schizophrenia, and this relationship appears to be mediated by psycho-social factors, including difficulties establishing social capital in smaller migrant groups. Individuals with schizophrenia are substantially over-represented amongst prison populations, and imprisonment increases the disability and stigma associated with mental illness, and impedes long-term recovery. The adverse effects of these social, economic and societal factors, along with the social stigma of mental illness, constitute a form of 'structural violence' which impairs access to psychiatric and social services and amplifies the effects of schizophrenia in the lives of sufferers. As a result of these over-arching social and economic factors, many individuals with schizophrenia are systematically excluded from full participation in civic and social life, and are constrained to live lives that are shaped by stigma, isolation, homelessness and denial of rights. There are urgent needs for (1) the development of enhanced aetiological models of schizophrenia, which elucidate the interactions between genetic risk and social environment, and can better inform bio-psycho-social approaches to treatment; (2) a renewal of emphasis on the United Nations' "Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness" and related legislative measures in individual countries; and (3) continued study and examination of the impact of social, economic and political structures on the clinical features and outcome of mental illnesses.
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            Mental health law and the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities

            People with a mental illness may be subject to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), depending on definitions of terms such as ‘impairment’, ‘long-term’ and the capaciousness of the word ‘includes’ in the Convention's characterisation of persons with disabilities. Particularly challenging under the CRPD is the scope, if any, for involuntary treatment. Conventional mental health legislation, such as the Mental Health Act (England and Wales) appears to violate, for example, Article 4 (‘no discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability’), Article 12 (persons shall ‘enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life’) and Article 14 (‘the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty’). We argue that a form of mental health law, such as the Fusion Law proposal, is consistent with the principles of the CRPD. Such law is aimed at eliminating discrimination against persons with a mental illness. It covers all persons regardless of whether they have a ‘mental’ or a ‘physical’ illness, and only allows involuntary treatment when a person's decision-making capability (DMC) for a specific treatment decision is impaired — whatever the health setting or cause of the impairment — and where supported decision making has failed. In addition to impaired DMC, involuntary treatment would require an assessment that such treatment gives the person's values and perspective paramount importance.
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              The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Mental Health Law

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BJPsych Advances
                BJPsych advances
                Royal College of Psychiatrists
                2056-4678
                2056-4686
                January 2015
                January 02 2018
                January 2015
                : 21
                : 1
                : 54-62
                Article
                10.1192/apt.bp.114.013409
                © 2015

                https://www.cambridge.org/core/terms

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