Psychiatry as a tool of coercion in post-Soviet countries 2012-2017
On May 19, 2017, at the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv, Ukraine, a new report on the resumption of political abuse of psychiatry in the former USSR was presented. The report, published by the international foundation ‘Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP”, presents all the available data on the resumption of psychiatry as a tool of repression in former Soviet republics in the period 2012-2017. It lists more than thirty new cases, of which almost half in occupied Crimea. The other cases are in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The report is authored by Viktor Davydov, a former political prisoner and victim of political abuse of psychiatry; Madeline Roache, a British researcher and free-lance journalist, and Robert van Voren, Chief Executive of Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP.
The authors of the report believe that the world has reached a crossroads and that unless sufficient pressure is exerted on national authorities in the countries concerned, one can expect that in some of the former Soviet republics we will slide back towards a governmental policy of using psychiatry for non-medical purposes.
The authors conclude that it is pivotal that serious efforts are made in the field of human rights education and the monitoring of human rights in closed institutions.
The English version of the report can be downloaded here
The Russian version of the report can be downloaded here
Mental health care in Central and Eastern Europe still neglected
An international research team, led by Dr Petr Winkler and Dr Dzmitry Krupchanka from the National Institute of Mental Health in the Czech Republic, has considered the state of mental health care in Central and Eastern Europe and concluded that it is outdated and ineffective. The study, which focuses on the last 25 years of development of mental health care systems in the region, and which several staff and board members of the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry contributed to, is to be published this week in the renowned scientific journal “The Lancet Psychiatry”.
Just over 25 years have passed since the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the beginning of the profound socio-, economic-, political- changes that have taken place since then. However, the anticipated revolution in mental health care has failed to materialize. Despite many promising policy documents, in practice services are still reliant on large psychiatric hospitals, in which conditions are often inadequate. In some facilities, the buildings are run down with little or no space for privacy. The underdevelopment of community care and lack of alternatives to hospital treatment in some countries lead to unnecessary psychiatric admissions and long-term hospitalizations, with people being hospitalized for over 20 years in some cases. Systems of mental health care are underfinanced, and the effective allocation of the few resources available is hampered by a dearth of epidemiological and economic evidence. Stigma and discrimination are widespread and human rights violations continue to occur.
“The burden associated with mental health and substance use disorders in the region is one of the highest in the world, suicide rates are high in the majority of countries, and alcohol consumption is excessive. Despite all these facts, the attention devoted to mental health and mental health care in the region is very limited,” comments Dr Krupchanka, one of the authors of the study.
“What we see in Central and Eastern Europe is a continuing taboo around mental illness, which leads to both, low quality public debate about mental health, and to structural discrimination against people with mental health problems. This is not just ethically problematic, but also unfortunate for us as humans, because mental health is not just the absence of mental illness, it includes also an ability to cope with a stress, experience happiness, joy and fulfillment, and to develop satisfactory relationships with other people. Mental health is fundamental to our overall quality of life,” adds Dr Winkler, the head of the Social Psychiatry Research Program, National Institute of Mental health, Czech Republic.
Call for applications: 2017 Jim Birley Scholarship
Jim Birley Scholarship 2017
For young mental health professionals and other stakeholders who have shown exemplary commitment to issues of human rights in mental health
In November 2013, the Board of the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry decided to honor its late Past Chairman Dr. Jim Birley by instituting a scholarship focusing on issues that Dr. Birley was especially committed to: issues of human rights in mental health, and stimulating young mental health professionals and other stakeholders to pay special attention to the rights of persons with mental illness.
The Jim Birley Scholarship will be provided once a year during a high visibility event to a young mental health professional or another stakeholder (user, family-member or carer) who has shown exemplary commitment to the issue of human rights in mental health.
In 2017 one scholarships of 5,000 euro will be awarded (in case of equal points the scholarship might be divided between two winners). The scholarship is to be used for a cause to be proposed by the winner and should contribute to the strengthening of human rights in the field of mental health.
A committee consisting of four members, including a member of the Birley family, will select the winners from the submitted applications.
How to apply?
Candidates for the Jim Birley Scholarship should write to Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP and in a letter explain:
- Why they should be eligible,
- Provide details about their background and what they have done to further human rights in mental health, and
- What they intend to do with the scholarship.
Two letters of recommendation should be added.
Applications should be submitted before June 11, 2017.
The Selection Committee will then select the winners of that year.
The winners of the award will be announced in late June 2017.