Authors: John Allan
Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Human Rights & Mental Health Services: A Double-Whammy Recolonisation for Marginalised Populations?
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: John Allan is Executive Director of the Mental Health Alcohol and other Drugs Branch in Queensland Health and President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. He has previously been Chief Psychiatrist in both Queensland and New South Wales.
The modern human rights framework, based on respect for inherent dignity of all humans, was crystallized by the United Nations through Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) 2006 embedded the rights of individuals with disabilities, including mental disabilities, into the international law. However, people with mental disabilities, especially the most disadvantaged groups e.g. Indigenous peoples, the homeless, prisoners, refugees and asylum seekers continue to face gross violation of their human rights. For example, Maori people in New Zealand and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia are significantly more likely to be subject to compulsory psychiatric treatment and experience seclusion. This double whammy of having a mental disability and being marginalized has been called ‘re-colonization of marginalized populations’.
Minimizing/eliminating involuntary treatment and seclusion/restraint require systematic voluntary options e.g. community-based and recovery-oriented mental health services and legislation that incorporates a respect for individual autonomy through advance health directives and supported decision-making principles. In addition, the government policies at all levels must promote empowerment, social inclusion and economic participation of individuals with mental disabilities and vulnerable population groups by promoting positive rights to housing, healthcare, education and employment. Most importantly, society at large has to commit to inclusive human development and social equity, especially for disadvantaged individuals facing capability deprivation.
This symposium will discuss the violations of human rights faced by vulnerable populations and identify potential solutions to ‘close the gap’ by focusing on legislation, policy and practice.
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