Mental health, human rights and legislation

Mental health, human rights and legislation: guidance and practice

A publication by: WHO team Mental Health and Substance Use

Editors: World Health Organization & United Nations. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Mental health is growing as a public health priority and human rights imperative, and an increasing number of countries are wishing to adopt or reform legislation related to mental health. However, laws on mental health, currently often fail to address discrimination and human rights violations including in mental health care settings. In order to support countries in this area, the World Health Organization and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have jointly developed the publication entitled “Mental health, human rights and legislation: guidance and practice”.

The guidance proposes new objectives for law, including setting a clear mandate for mental health systems to adopt a rights-based approach. It outlines legal provisions required to promote deinstitutionalization and access to good quality, person-centred community mental health services. It highlights how laws can address stigma and discrimination and provides concrete measures on how to eliminate coercion in mental health services in favour of practices that respect people’s rights and dignity.

The Guidance also provides key information on how to adopt a human rights-based approach when reviewing, adopting, implementing and evaluating mental health related laws, and includes a practical checklist enabling countries to assess whether their laws align with current human rights standards.