UN launches new tool to protect people with mental health conditions

The United Nations health agency on Friday launched a new tool to help countries protect the rights and dignity of people with mental health conditions and stop abuses against them.
NEW YORK : The Quality Rights Tool Kit is designed to ensure that quality of care and human rights standards are put in place in mental health and social care facilities around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a news release.“Poor quality services and human rights violations in mental health and social care facilities are still an everyday occurrence in many places, especially in low- and middle-income countries,” said the Director of WHO’s Department of Mental Healthand Substance Abuse, Shekar Saxena.“Decrepit buildings, overcrowding and unhygienic living conditions are a reality for many people living in psychiatric institutions,” Saxena added. “In many facilities, people are exposed to violence, abuse, harmful treatment and neglect. Many are locked up against their will, overmedicated, put in seclusion cells or restrained, sometimes for years.”The Tool Kit is based on the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the 2006 treaty that seeks to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same human rights as everyone else.

It establishes key standards that need to be met in all facilities, including the need for living conditions to be safe and hygienic and the social environment to be conducive to recovery; the provision of evidence-based care for their mental and physical health condition, on the basis of free and informed consent; and reporting and halting all inhuman treatment.

“The Tool Kit has been developed with major inputs from people from civil society organizations which specialize in mental and psychosocial disabilities, as well as other mental health and human rights experts, which is why it is so comprehensive and practical,” said Michelle Funk, who led the WHO team which developed theTool Kit.

“It can be applied in low-, middle- and high-resource settings. It is unique because it can be implemented in both inpatient and outpatient facilities and allows for a comparison between mental health and general health care services,” Funk added.

Along with setting up standards, the Tool Kit provides specific guidance on how to conduct a comprehensive assessment of services, how to report findings and make appropriate recommendations to improve quality of care and human rights at the health facility and at national level. It is part of a larger WHO QualityRights project to improve the quality of mental health care and human rights conditions in mental health and social care facilities.

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June 2012
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