Amnesty International Ireland Takes On Mental Health

I know there have been attempts to get Amnesty International to call certain forms of psychiatric treatment torture in the past that haven’t gone very far. Amnesty International has used the ‘acceptable treatments’ loophole to avoid making that kind of connection. This would assume somehow that credentials and training, or the professional veneer, somehow legitimized torture as treatment. Torture is torture, and confinement, restraints, brain damaging shocks and health destroying drugs all fit the bill.

Well, now there is good news coming from the desks of Amnesty International! The CEO of Amnesty International Ireland has just launched a campaign make Mental Health a priority in Irish society. Ireland’s inability to modernize services and its continued reliance on total institutions is seen as a breach of international law. In Ireland Amnesty International is partnering with people who have had first hand experience with the Mental Health system to effect positive change in that system.

I hardly think Ireland is the very worst when it comes to dragging its feet in Mental Health care. Let’s hope this instance is only the beginning, and maybe Amnesty International will be able to follow suit in other areas of the globe as well.

Way to go Amnesty International Ireland!

Psychiatric care breaks law, claims Amnesty

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

CARL O’BRIEN, Social Affairs Correspondent

THE RIGHTS of people with mental health problems are being violated on a daily basis due to failures of psychiatric services, campaigners have warned.

Amnesty International Ireland said yesterday that the State’s failure to modernise mental health services and the continued use of institutional care was in breach of international law. The organisation has launched a campaign in partnership with people who have direct experience of mental health problems to help reverse decades of neglect of mental health services.

The two-year campaign seeks to highlight the State’s obligation to respect patients’ human rights and the need for new patient-centred services. In particular, it points to the Government’s failure to fully implement a 10-year blueprint to modernise the service, called A Vision for Change, as an example of continuing neglect.

Mike Watts, a mental health service user, said: “We know the mental health system is failing us because we have been through it and we want to do something about it.
“Mental health services continue to be dominated by a one-dimensional response. Too often the only treatment available is medication instead of a full range of treatments, options and social supports.”

He said the issue had been pushed to the bottom of the health agenda for too long, but pointed out that mental health issues affect large sections of the population.

“Today we are the ones talking about our experience of the mental health system in Ireland, but tomorrow it could be you. A Vision for Change was adopted as official policy more than three years ago, accompanied by pledges that it would be fully resourced and implemented,” he said.

However, there has been heavy criticism about the slow rate of progress and moves in recent years to divert much-needed funding away from the mental health sector.

An independent monitoring group established by the Government said recently that the HSE had still not issued a detailed implementation proposal for the plan. The campaign says it is clear the Government needs to implement a radically different approach to mental health, focused on each individual’s human rights and dignity, and promoting conditions where people can live a full life in the community.

Amnesty International’s executive director, Colm O’Gorman, said evidence showed that we could not afford to neglect mental health services any longer. “The direct annual cost of poor mental health in Ireland has been estimated at €3 billion, or 2 per cent of our gross national product,” he said.

He said the campaign would use human rights to demand action from the Government on policy and legislation relating to mental health. It will also challenge individuals and society to put an end to discrimination against people with mental health difficulties. “The campaign has evolved in the same way we want to see mental health services evolve – by putting the person at the heart of the system,” Mr O’Gorman said.

Among the aims of the campaign is to enable a group of people with mental health difficulties to hold the Department of Health and the HSE to account; seek greater transparency on health spending; and secure time-bound measures for implementing A Vision for Change .

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