Human rights and mental health services


Sir, – At a global level, the key human rights violation experienced by the mentally ill is lack of access to appropriate psychiatric, medical and social care. The World Health Organisation points out that most people with mental, neurological, and substance use disorders (75 per cent in many low-income countries) simply do not have access to the treatment and support they need.

In this context, the emphasis that Ireland’s Mental Health Commission continues to place on human rights is very welcome (“Human rights to underpin mental health services”, News, February 22nd).

From a legislative perspective, the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 is in the process of being implemented and will bring significant change in this direction. It is also hoped that there will soon be legislation giving effect to key elements of the 2015 review of the Mental Health Act 2001, updating the legislation in a coordinated, sustainable and person-centred fashion.

Throughout these processes, it is critical that mental health service-users and their families are at the heart of change and that reform ensures the availability of care when and where it is needed, in a fashion that not only protects but also promotes human rights.

This is all entirely possible but it requires coordination across several sectors: mental health, physical healthcare, social services, housing, the criminal justice system and various non-governmental organisations.

Human rights are indivisible. True liberty requires not only personal freedom but also a context that allows that freedom to be realised: housing, income, social support and a sense of community that genuinely includes the mentally ill and their families. – Yours, etc,



Professor of Psychiatry,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.