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.

COVID-19 and Mental Health


The international campaign ”Mind the Gap” focuses on the terminology of “social distancing”, a concept that for many persons with psychosocial or physical disability only increases their social isolation further. “Physical distancing” is a necessity in times of a COVID-19 pandemic, but the ones who are hurt most by the current crisis are those who are in need of social contacts, who are lonely, are chronically ill, are elderly without a social network, and are people with mental health problems who are often neglected, ignored and sometimes openly shunned by others. To them social distancing means that their isolation becomes a high-security prison, an isolation cell, and to some it will be a reason enough to seriously consider ending their lives.

Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP has spoken out against using the term at an early stage of the COVID crisis, and some basic materials were developed to illustrate our position. Others have also expressed their concern, and also the World Health Organization has called upon authorities and the general public to change the term to “physical distancing”.

In April 2020 we started an international campaign to stop using the term “social distancing” and instead to change it into “physical distancing” and social solidarity. The campaign is supported by 50 organizatioins worldwide. The campaign visuals have been translated in 40 languages and are free to use in social media or in any other form. Well-known people have agreed to have us use their portrait with the campaign visuals; others have added a quote. Further information can be found on our website

We also maintain the following facebooks:

and the Mind the Gap Campaign facebook

Global society is experiencing the biggest crisis Since the Second World War. The resulting stress and anxiety undermines the psychological well-being of individuals, families, and communities. People with psychosocial disability, and the staff who provide care, are particularly vulnerable. FGIP is actively engaged in providing that support. For more information click here