Human Rights in Mental Health

Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP is an international non-profit foundation that was founded in 1980 as the International Association on the Political Use of Psychiatry (IAPUP). In 1980-1989 it coordinated the campaigns against the political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union and Romania, and in several other countries. Starting in 1989-1990, it became actively involved in developing humane, ethical and user-oriented mental health services in Central and Eastern Europe and the former USSR. Since 2005 it is also active in other countries, e.g. in South-East Asia, Sri-Lanka, Africa and the Caribbean. All these years, human rights have remained the cornerstone of our work.

We actively support the development of mental health care services in developing countries. We strive to ensure that every person can participate in society as fully as possible, irrespective of the fact whether he/she is a hospitalized psychiatric patient in Sri Lanka, a person with an intellectual disability in Ukraine or an AIDS-orphan in South Africa. In order to bring about structural reforms in mental health, we work at grass root level together with local partners and at governmental level with politicians and policy makers. In our work cultural-specific issues have a prime focus.

 

Mission Statement

Every person in the world should have the opportunity to realize his or her full potential as a human being, notwithstanding personal vulnerabilities or life circumstances.  Every society, accordingly, has a special obligation to establish a comprehensive, integrated system for providing ethical, humane and individualized treatment, care, and rehabilitation, and to counteract stigmatization of, and discrimination against, people with mental disorders or histories of mental health treatment.  An enlightened services system promotes mutually respectful partnerships between persons who receive services and those who deliver them, protects the human rights of users and the ethical autonomy of service providers, and facilitates the engagement of users, families, and all other stakeholders in advocating for and achieving improvements in the quality of care.

Recognizing that these aspirations remain everywhere unfulfilled, and that the rights and needs of persons with mental disorders are particularly vulnerable to infringement and neglect, the mission of Human Rights in Mental Heakth-FGIP is to promote humane, ethical, and effective mental health care throughout the world and to support a global network of individuals and organizations to develop, advocate for, and carry out the necessary reforms.

Human Rights and Mental Health

Mental health care is a mirror of society. The more humane and civil a society, the more chance there is for a humane, user-oriented mental health care system in which human rights are respected and users and their carers collaborate in selecting and delivering services. However, a civil society does not automatically produce a humane and user-oriented mental health care system. In spite of the fact that a large portion of society is affected by mental health problems, users typically remain stigmatized, invisible, and often neglected, and as a result mental health services are often under-financed and under-rated. People with mental illness are often segregated -- psychologically and, in many cases, also physically and legally – from the rest of society. In fact, a genuine commitment to improve treatment of people with mental disabilities may be the most revealing measure of progress in a modern society. A truly “civil” society elevates the position of all its most vulnerable citizens, serves the needs of persons with mental problems, provides adequate funding for mental health care, and assures that services are user-oriented – in other words, the needs and wishes of those using the services are the central considerations in shaping policy and practice.

Mental health care has always been a low priority in most of the countries in the world In many countries, mental patients were stashed away in large institutions outside the city, where people were ignored and, all too often, left to die. This mentality, which relegated mental patients to a sub-human status, and even branded relatives of the mentally ill, still pervades many societies. Much work needs to be done in this field, to change the image and position of persons with mental problems. This is a task that will take several decades to accomplish.

In many countries, the human rights of mental patients are violated on a massive scale. In many institutions, living conditions are appalling; methods of treatment are outdated; staff is underpaid and insufficiently educated and unable to deal with the patients’ problems; abuses are rampant; and little hope exists that the care provided will help to bring persons with mental illness back to society. In short, becoming mentally ill is usually a life sentence to a form of exile or second-class citizenship.

Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP is committed to achieving genuine improvements in mental health care and in respect for human rights, and believes that these improvements need to be achieved by opening doors, not closing them. We believe in building partnerships and finding ways to enable local leaders to embrace the need for correction themselves. This strategy of “operating in silence” is not necessarily contradicted or undermined by the activities of those who voice their criticisms more stridently and more openly.

Emergency and trauma care - Ukraine

Support the Maidan Medical Support Fund

 

Request for financial donations

Momentous events are happing in Ukraine. What started as a protest by students in favor of an associate agreement with the European Union, turned into a people’s uprising against an autocratic and corrupt regime. After three months of mass demonstrations at the Maidan in Kyiv, and later in cities all across Ukraine, the old rulers are fleeing the country. What is happening before our eyes is truly a revolution led by the first post-Soviet generation.

The revolution came at a very high cost. Thousands of demonstrators were wounded, some losing eyes or limbs, and at least one hundred activists were shot dead by riot police and snipers operating from buildings around the square. Undoubtedly, the number of dead will rise considerably, as many people are unaccounted for and there are fears dozens might have been killed and left in mass graves in the forests.

During this period, hospital services were set up at the Maidan, for a very urgent reason: wounded demonstrators who were delivered to regular medical services were abducted by riot police, beaten up and in some cases killed. For example, on February 19, riot police broke into the intensive care unit of the Emergency Hospital in Kyiv, turned off all the equipment and abducted the critically wounded demonstrators who were undergoing medical care to an unknown destination.

The Maidan medical teams, all volunteers of various ages and backgrounds, performed heroic deeds. They worked at the front line, rescuing wounded activists, while they themselves were under constant attack. In violation of all rules of engagement and conventions, riot police and snipers were specifically targeting medics. They were wounded by snipers, they were beaten, abducted or even arrested for performing their professional responsibilities. They put the Hippocratic Oath into effect and deserve our support and admiration.

While their work can now gradually be taken over by regular medical services, both in Ukraine and abroad, the main challenge is now to take care of those traumatized by the events. These include activists who fought at the front line and who saw their buddies being wounded or killed; these include the relatives of those killed; these also include the volunteers of the Maidan hospital, who saw the wounded and killed being brought in by the dozen, and who had to perform operations in hotel lobbies and churches and treat the wounded right at the battle zone.

We wish to help those dealing with trauma and grief by providing specialized trauma care, offered by experts from the region who know the circumstances and environment, and who speak the language of those affected. We work closely with centers and individual specialists in the region, who have a long-lasting experience in similar situations. We want to train Ukrainian personnel, who can follow up and develop their own expertise. And we want to support the medical personnel in putting their lives back on track, and make sure they will manage to give the traumatic events a place in their lives.

We have a 25-year experience in developing mental health care in Ukraine, working closely with Ukrainian partners and friends who know exactly what is needed and how it can be done. We call upon you to help us in realizing our plans and doing what must be done. All donations, big and small, are most welcome.

People who want to make donations can do so by transferring their donation to the bank account of the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry. We will make sure all your donations find their way to the right destination. Our partner on the ground is, among others, the Ukrainian Psychiatric Association, with whom we have worked for more than 20 years.