14 May 2018

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ll be sharing real life stories about how human rights can transform the lives of people affected by mental health issues, together with our practical resources to help make that change. At BIHR we focus on supporting people and organisations to know what human rights are (and are not), and how they can use human rights in everyday life to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect.

For the last 7 years we’ve had a strategic focus on mental health (and mental capacity), working in partnership with advocates and service users, staff providing care and treatment, and regulators, to show the practical difference human rights can make. We do this because the evidence shows that people affected by mental health issues are at risk of having their rights breached. This can include having unlawful restrictions on their liberty, being neglected and sometimes abused by public services, a lack of involvement in decisions about care and treatment, having relationships restricted, and in extreme cases the right to life may not be appropriately protected. The Human Rights Act, which protects every single person in the UK, has something to say about these issues.  (For more information about the Human Rights Act, check out our 2 min video here)

We take the rights and duties in the Human Rights Act and translate them into useful everyday tools people can use, whether they are receiving mental health treatment, are a family member of a patient, an advocate, a nurse, doctor or manager. Our work shows that when people and organisations are provided with the right support to understand and use human rights, this can transform people’s lives, securing better care and treatment decisions, changing policies, supporting staff, and transforming cultures. For example, some of the stories we’ll be sharing this week, include:

  • When Lorraine entered hospital for mental health treatment she ended up having to use a bucket for a toilet. Lorraine’s advocate was part of BIHR’s advocacy programme and so they knew how to use human rights in their everyday discussions with staff to resolve this and restore Lorraine’s dignity. Watch Lorraine’s story here.

This Mental Health Awareness Week we will be sharing excerpts from our resources that we have developed with people using mental health services, advocates, and staff. These resources help share the impact of our work, supporting others to explore using human rights approaches in healthcare. Find out more here:

Ultimately, human rights belong to everyone, but not everyone has their human rights respected. Ensuring people know and use human rights, including people affected by mental health issues, is vital to realise the equal dignity and respect of each person.