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Human rights-based approaches to mental health: A review of programs

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Mann, SP 
Bradley, VJ 
Sahakian, BJ 


The incidence of human rights violations in mental health care across nations has been described as a “global emergency” and an “unresolved global crisis.” The relationship between mental health and human rights is complex and bidirectional. Human rights violations can negatively impact mental health. Conversely, respecting human rights can improve mental health. This article reviews cases where an explicitly human rights-based approach was used in mental health care settings. Although the included studies did not exhibit a high level of methodological rigor, the qualitative information obtained was considered useful and informative for future studies. All studies reviewed suggest that human-rights based approaches can lead to clinical improvements at relatively low costs. Human rights-based approaches should be utilized for legal and moral reasons, since human rights are fundamental pillars of justice and civilization. The fact that such approaches can contribute to positive therapeutic outcomes and, potentially, cost savings, is additional reason for their implementation. However, the small sample size and lack of controlled, quantitative measures limit the strength of conclusions drawn from included studies. More objective, high quality research is needed to ascertain the true extent of benefits to service users and providers.



4203 Health Services and Systems, 42 Health Sciences, Health Services, Clinical Research, Mental Health, 8.1 Organisation and delivery of services, 8 Health and social care services research, 3 Good Health and Well Being, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, Global Health, Human Rights, Humans, Mental Disorders, Mental Health Services

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Health and Human Rights

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Harvard University Press

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