What Are Human Rights?

Human rights are fundamental rights and freedoms that every individual has regardless of nationality, ethnicity, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, and disability. Human rights apply to everyone and are crucial for fostering an equitable society where every individual’s dignity, autonomy and well-being are recognised and supported.

The foundation of modern human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The UDHR is a blueprint for numerous legally binding international human rights laws and treaties. Governments that have ratified human rights treaties have obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil these rights under international law. At the same time, individuals also have a responsibility to respect the rights of others.

In the United Kingdom, human rights are safeguarded by the Human Rights Act 1998. This act ensures that all public authorities, including the government, police, NHS, and local authorities, treat everyone equally, with respect, dignity, and fairness. The Human Rights Act enshrines 16 rights, known as “articles,” covering various vital aspects of daily life. These rights include:

  • The right to have and express one’s opinions
  • The right to education
  • The right to a private and family life and
  • The right not to be mistreated or wrongly punished by the state

At Nurseline Community Services, we prioritise and fight for the human rights of every person we serve, fostering compassion and support to build a just and equitable world.

What Is Mental Health?

Mental health includes a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It shapes an individual’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and overall quality of life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as a state of well-being where individuals realise their potential, cope with life’s everyday stressors, engage in productive work, establish relationships, and make meaningful contributions to the community and society.

Different factors can impact mental health, including:

  • Society
  • Inequality
  • Early life experiences
  • Genetics
  • Medical challenges
  • Trauma
  • Significant life changes  

It is also vital to recognise different mental health conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

By prioritising mental health, individuals can fully engage with their families, friends, and communities, contributing to a more fulfilling life for themselves and those around them.

Mental Health Care and Human Rights

The Human Rights Act 1998 is crucial in safeguarding the rights and dignity of individuals with mental health challenges, ensuring that mental health care providers and services treat individuals respectfully, fairly, and without discrimination.

Integrating a human rights-based approach in mental health care ensures that human rights principles are central to the services provided, empowering individuals and emphasising their dignity and equality. Transitioning from institutional care to community-based models and eliminating restrictive practices in mental health services is an example of essential steps towards creating a supportive and rights-based mental health care system that respects individual autonomy.

Human Rights Violations

Human rights violations in the context of mental health have been a long-standing topic.

Access to essential care to achieve the highest standard of health is often limited, and sources indicate that mental health spending in the WHO European region remains low, with only around 2% of total health expenditure allocated to mental health. Furthermore, there are many accounts of unlawful mental health services displaying tendencies towards force and institutionalisation.

Preventing human rights violations should be the driving force behind mental health reforms, acknowledging that the right to the highest standard of physical and mental health is interconnected with all human rights.

Violation of Human Rights of People with Mental Health Challenges

People with mental health challenges worldwide frequently experience violations of their human rights. They are often subjected to inhumane treatment, abuse, and neglect. Stigma and discrimination lead to their exclusion from society, delaying access to essential care, support, and services important for their integration into the community.

Addressing these human rights violations requires concerted efforts. Countries must ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and align their policies and laws with its principles to promote autonomy, legal capacity, social services, and community living for people with mental health challenges.

Changing societal attitudes and raising awareness about mental health stigma is essential. This requires the collaboration of health authorities, healthcare professionals, civil society organisations, academic institutions, and other stakeholders. Empowering individuals with mental health challenges and their families is crucial, too.

One of the proposed steps to overcome violations is to replace institutions with community-based mental health care services. At Nurseline Community Services, we provide compassionate home care and support while respecting the autonomy and dignity of each individual we serve.

Violation of Human Rights in Mental Health Institutions

The absence of community-based mental health support often leaves mental health institutions as the only option. While some mental health institutions follow humane practices, there are many cases where individuals have been subjected to inhuman treatment, abuse, and violence. In some cases, individuals with mental health challenges are disadvantaged and neglected of necessities such as clothing, clean water, and proper sanitation.

The government’s low allocation of health budgets to mental health services reflects the systemic issues perpetuating violations in mental health institutions. The WHO has recommended a shift towards community-based mental health services grounded in human rights-based approaches, which can provide more person-centred and effective care.

Effects of Human Rights Violation on Mental Health

Human rights violations have profound and lasting effects on mental health. Individuals that have gone through human rights abuses, such as torture and displacement, often experience trauma that profoundly affects their mental well-being. Restrictive treatment practices and institutionalisation in mental health care can further intensify the sense of powerlessness and distress for individuals with mental health challenges.

Lack of attention to human rights, discrimination, and social exclusion can contribute to low mental health outcomes and deny individuals dignity and autonomy. The neglect of mental health in public health strategies, despite its significant impact on overall health, highlights the urgent need to address human rights violations and promote the well-being of people with mental health challenges.

Tackling Human Rights Violations in Mental Health

People with mental health challenges deserve dignity, respect, and autonomy, and their rights must be supported to promote their well-being and inclusion in society.

Tackling human rights violations in mental health requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach. Countries need to review their mental health legislation and engage with civil society, including users and providers of mental health services. This approach is crucial for successful mental health reform. Additionally, reforms should align with international human rights standards, including the UN CRPD.

Community-based care is crucial for replacing mental health institutions and dismantling stigma by emphasising human dignity and rights. Additionally, the imbalances within mental health systems need to be addressed, and support must be more equitably distributed to those who need it the most.

Nurseline Community Services is a Dedicated Advocate of Human Rights

Nurseline Community Services advocates for human rights in mental health and actively works to break down stigmas and barriers surrounding mental health. Our approach to care is person-centred, considering each individual’s unique needs, aspirations, and preferences. We ensure that our treatment plans are tailored to promote positive outcomes and empower individuals to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives within their communities.

Nurseline Community Services is committed to giving individuals freedom, respect, and dignity. Our 24/7 mental health teams are available to provide continuous support, ensuring that individuals have access to assistance whenever they need it.

By offering comprehensive and compassionate mental health support, we aim to reduce the reliance on institutional care and empower individuals to live independently while still receiving the necessary assistance and care they require.

To learn more about our mental health support services, we encourage you to reach out to our offices in Bristol, Birmingham, or Gloucester, or contact us today.