International human rights law and the right to mental health

Chang, Chueh, Lee, Po-Han, Wen, Kuei-Chun and Chang, Chu-Hui (2015) International human rights law and the right to mental health. Formosa Journal of Mental Health, 28 (3). pp. 449-468. ISSN 1023-7283

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Abstract

Purpose: Why did the WHO claim that there is “no health without mental health”? In its reform of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), why did the Taiwan government
add oral health into the Department of Mental Health? This paper explores normative accounts for the right to health which include physical and mental health as a highest state for everyone. Challenge the government should not excuse for inadequate resource to add oral to Department of mental health.

Methods: We apply an analysis of international human rights law and international conventions to justify how mental health is a human right.

Results: The right to the highest attainable standard of health is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, as well as the constitution of the World Health Organization. A person’s state of health is conceptualized with a holistic perspective. Mental health, by definition and elements, is critical to an individual’s personal dignity, lifestyle, and living condition. Thus, as the fundamental basis of personal development and functioning, physical and mental health are recognized as a human right in international human rights law. The governments need to take responsibilities to build a mental healthy environment to their people.

Conclusions: We found that in practice, governments (including Taiwan) often ignore people’s mental health needs when initiating health or welfare policies, especially if mental health is not regarded as a human right by the government. In fact, some governments refuse to honor mental health as a right although it is a legal obligation under international law. We urge Taiwan’s government to return the structure of the MOHW back to include an independent Department of Mental Health. To influence governmental policies, a change is needed in the research community, because researchers and practitioners in mental health and psychiatry still rarely view mental health from an international human rights perspective as well as for all public not disease oriented. We hope to initiate a review of the basic requirements of the right to mental health in terms of its positive, rather than negative, aspects.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: mental health, international human rights law, right to health
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Law
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine > RA0790 Mental health. Mental illness prevention
Depositing User: Mr. Po-Han Lee
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2016 09:07
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 05:03
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/61945

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