People with Mental Illness and Human Rights: A Developing Countries Perspective

Article excerpt

Byline: Vijayalakshmi. Poreddi, Ramachandra, Konduru. Reddemma, Suresh. Math

Background: Human rights violations among the people with mental illness were not an uncommon occurrence. The present study was aimed to compare persons with psychiatric illness and their caregivers' perceptions regarding the human rights status of people with mental illness in the community. Materials and Methods: A descriptive design was carried out among randomly selected asymptomatic psychiatric patients and their caregivers (N=200) at a tertiary care center. Data was collected through face-to-face interview, using a structured questionnaire. Data was analyzed and interpreted using descriptive and inferential statistics. Results: Our findings revealed that the caregivers than psychiatric patients perceived negatively to the statements i.e., 'Receiving equal information and encouragement about career opportunities' (?[sup]2=10.779, P<0.029), 'Opposing discriminatory actions, slurs' (?[sup]2=9.472, P<0.050) 'Resolving the conflicts with people with mental illness through nonviolent ways' (?[sup]2=27.091, P<0.000), 'Responding to the complaints of harassment or discrimination against the people with mental illness' (?[sup]2=18.697, P<0.001), 'Encouraged to continue their education' (?[sup]2=13.029, P<0.023) 'Exploitation by the community members' (?[sup]2=18.653, P<0.001) and working under fair conditions (?[sup]2=13.470, P<0.009). Conclusion: The study suggests that there is an urgent need to take necessary steps to protect, promote, and fulfill human rights of people with mental illness through providing care, educating the community, and strengthening the legislations.


People with mental illness encountering human rights violations in meeting their basic needs are a reality to be found in every corner of the globe. [sup][1] The Preamble to the Constitution of India assures equal treatment and equality of opportunity and status to all the citizens. Every person with a mental illness has the same basic rights as every other person, specifically including the rights set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the rights recognized in the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons; that discrimination on the basis of mental illness is not permitted and that people being treated for a mental illness must be accorded the right to recognition as a person before the law. [sup][2] Despite the adequate legislations, we often come across horrendous stories about the way people with mental illness are treated in community and various psychiatric institutions. [sup][3] Further, World Health Organization (WHO) states that we are "facing a global human rights emergency in mental health" as many countries lack the basic legal framework to protect those with a disability. [sup][4] A free India was not an exception, as evident by the National Human Rights Commission report [sup][5] which highlighted the gross inadequacies and subhuman living conditions in mental hospitals. Furthermore, India's dismal record of rights violations of the mentally ill was glaringly exposed with the grotesque death of 25 patients at an "asylum" in Tamil Nadu. [sup][6] The lack of human rights or their violations, as seen in the Erwadi tragedy and similar cases, does not stem from a shortcoming in existing Indian or international law per se ; but is the result of social stigma, prejudice, and other social and economic factors linked with mental illness. [sup][7]

Community care has been a paradigm shift for psychiatric treatment worldwide. The success of deinstitutionalization depends on a number of key conditions: The establishment of a comprehensive community support system, an environment that allows the people with mental illness to experience all the rights of citizenship as other individuals do, and tolerance and nondiscrimination in the local community. [sup][8] However, studies have provided evidences of high levels of bullying, harassment, and exploitation experienced by people with mental health problems while living in the community. …


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