PRIME calls for a human rights-based approach to mental health care in low-and middle-income countries

1 Oct 2012 - 12:00

People with mental disorders are exposed to a wide range of human rights violations due to the stigma, myths and misconceptions associated with mental disorders. Violations often occur within health systems through inadequate and harmful care, and outside the health system such as in the workplace, in communities or at schools. This stigma and discrimination negatively impacts on a person’s ability to seek appropriate care, and recover from mental illness.[1]

This was the message that the PRogramme for Improving Mental health carE (PRIME) conveyed to the global public health civil society at the 3rd People’s Health Assembly held in Cape Town in July 2012.

Within the context of the PHM’s goal of promoting ‘Health for All’ globally, PRIME equally calls for ‘Mental health for All’, and is actively working towards the integration of mental health care into public health systems by developing evidence on the best ways to scale-up treatment in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC), where it is most needed. PRIME CEO, Crick Lund and colleagues, have emphasised the particular vulnerability of the mentally ill to human rights abuses in poorly resourced countries.[2]  

The abuses against people living with mental illnesses, such as chaining people to hospital beds, putting them into cages and tying them to trees have been well documented, and strongly condemned by the international Movement for Global Mental Health (www.globalmentalhealth.org), with one expert describing the lack of response to such abuses as a ‘failure of humanity’.[3]

Research Director of PRIME, Vikram Patel and colleagues, propose that such a “shameful situation” should be made the single most important priority for global mental health, and that stakeholders in mental health, including mental health practitioners, work in close partnership with users and civil society groups to bring such an outrage to an end.3

Acknowledging the existence of such gross human rights violations, PRIME calls for a human rights approach to its evidence-based interventions, including the strengthening of legislative provisions, to promote the improvement of mental health care in poorly resourced countries.2


[1]WHO (2006). Mental Health & Human Rights Fact Sheet. Available http://www.who.int/mental_health/policy/mental_health_and_human_rights_october_2006.pdf

[2]Lund, C. Sutcliffe, T. Flisher, A & Stein, D (2012). [Chapter] Protecting the rights of the mentally ill in poorly resourced settings – experiences from four African countries. [Book] Dudley, M. Silove, D & Gale, F. Mental health and human rights: vision, praxis, and courage (pp 527-537).Oxford University Press: United Kingdom  

[3] Patel, V. Kleinman, A & Saraceno, B (2012). [Commentary] Protecting the human rights of people with mentally illnesses: a call to action for global mental health. [Book] Dudley, M. Silove, D & Gale, F. Mental health and human rights: vision, praxis, and courage (pp 362-375).Oxford University Press: United Kingdom