Mental Health as a Human Right
Wayne State University Law School
Lawrence O. Gostin
Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law
June 18, 2009
SWISS HUMAN RIGHTS BOOK, Vol. 3, pp. 249-261, Rüffer & Rub, 2009
Wayne State University Law School Research Paper No. 09-15
The goal of achieving good mental health remains an important global concern, although one that is often overlooked and undermined by policymakers and politicians. Persons living with mental disabilities often face substantial obstacles to improving their mental health and participating fully in their communities and societies. They have been subjected to discrimination, stigmatization, and other indignities, including involuntary conﬁnement without fair process, inability to access needed care and treatment, and the erection of social and economic barriers that limit their opportunities.
This chapter will articulate a robust conception of a human right to mental health, and illustrate the need to conceive of the right to mental health in a broader way within a human rights framework. Our conception of a right to mental health embraces a complex and interrelated relationship between mental health and physical health, and between the right to mental health and other human rights. Mental health comprises an integral component of overall health and well-being. Likewise, the right to health, as it exists in international human rights instruments, necessarily and clearly encompasses both physical and mental health. Just as it is difﬁcult to address the right to health without contemplating other related human rights, mental and physical health cannot be considered separately in the context of human rights - a minimum level of both mental and physical health are necessary to ensure the ability to enjoy and beneﬁt from other human rights. Thus, eﬀorts to recognize and uphold a human right to health must incorporate strategies to protect, respect, and fulfill mental health as well as physical health. Establishing and upholding affirmative mental health rights can fundamentally advance the dignity and welfare of persons with mental disabilities, and, simultaneously, advance the recognition and development of the right to health generally.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17
Date posted: June 18, 2009