New UN Resolution on Mental Health and Human Rights

August 5, 2016

On 1 July 2016, the UN Human Rights Council (see picture) adopted a Resolution on Mental Health and Human Rights, led by Belgium, Portugal and Brazil and cosponsored by 61 countries, with more countries still joining.









The Resolution on Mental Health and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on 1 July 2016, which calls on Member States to view mental health care from a human rights perspective and to take action accordingly. This is an exciting step forward, as it signals an escalation of the UN’s commitment to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and NGO’s like Fracarita International on addressing global mental health needs.


Among its key points, the resolution:

  • Defines human rights and dignity as being universal and indivisible, including the right to be free from discrimination

  • Echoes the WHO’s stance that “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being,” emphasizing that mental health is an integral part of the right to good health

  • Voices concern that persons with mental health conditions or using mental health services may be subject to “discrimination, stigma, prejudice, violence, social exclusion and segregation, unlawful or arbitrary institutionalization, over-medicalization, and treatment practices that fail to respect their autonomy, will, and preferences”

  • Voices concern that “such practices may constitute violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, sometimes amounting to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment”

  • Acknowledges that greater commitment by member States is needed to address these challenges, and urges them to take measures to the maximum of their available resources, stressing that services should integrate a human rights perspective and comply with international human rights norms

  • Recommends that States follow the leadership of the WHO and implement its Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020


In its conclusion, the resolution calls for a report to be prepared by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the integration of human rights into mental health care. The report is expected to identify and make recommendations on existing challenges and emerging good practices, and is to be presented to the Human Rights Council at its 34th session in March 2017.


What can we do?

The request for the report encourages the High Commissioner to “liaise with and seek the views of Member States and all other relevant stakeholders,” including UN bodies, agencies, programmes, human rights institutions, and civil society. As innovators actively working to change mental health care for the better across the world, Fracarita International looks forward to continued work with Member States and NGO’s showcasing our practices, challenges, and impact. Together we can demonstrate that a human rights approach to mental health services is possible and can bring huge benefits to society.


The resolution highlights: 

  • that “persons with mental health conditions or psychosocial disabilities, in particular persons using mental health services, may be subject to, inter alia, widespread discrimination, stigma, prejudice, violence, social exclusion and segregation, unlawful or arbitrary institutionalization, over-medicalization and treatment practices that fail to respect their autonomy, will and preferences” and 

  • “the need for States to take active steps to fully integrate a human rights perspective into mental health and community services, particularly with a view to eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination within that context, and to promote the right of everyone to full inclusion and effective participation in society” 


This resolution provides additional impetus to address human rights in mental health and also signals a commitment by countries to achieve this.


In the next weeks the WHO is taking concrete actions through its QualityRights initiative, along with information and suggestions about how we can join our efforts to improve quality of care and respect for human rights in our mental health services around the world.


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