Human rights are specified in different ways throughout the world, but globally human rights mean that individuals receive equal treatment in all areas of life. This includes education, housing, career, and healthcare opportunities. However, research suggests that people with mental health issues, and particularly those in developing countries, are not being treated equally with respect to human rights.
The deinstitutionalization of psychiatric care in recent decades has led to more informal caregiving. The majority of people who take on the role of caregiver for someone with mental health concerns are family members. Therefore, they may be especially able to provide a perception of human rights violations for those in their care, namely, individuals with mental health issues.
Vijayalakshmi Poreddi of the College of Nursing at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in India chose to survey caregivers and individuals with mental health issues to find out how they perceived their human rights were being violated as a result of having psychological health problems. Poreddi interviewed 200 nonsymptomatic psychiatric clients and their primary caregivers and asked them about discrimination related to housing, jobs, income, education, and medical treatment.
The results revealed that in general, the caregivers perceived higher rates of human rights violations than the clients did. The perceived violations that both groups reported happened across all domains of living. Specifically, 83% of the caregivers reported that their clients did not get career opportunity information and that career discrimination against those with mental health concerns was common. Additionally, 87% of the caregivers and 84% of the clients reported experiencing or witnessing community and social discrimination.
Perhaps even more startling was the fact that 75% of the caregivers said that community members ignored discriminatory practices, bullying, and stigma-related slurs against people with psychological health problems, and 51% said that their complaints about such actions went unanswered. When asked about homelessness, which is an increasing problem among people with mental health issues worldwide, nearly three quarters of caregivers and clients said they have witnessed individuals who had psychological problems living on the streets. This is an especially concerning problem for women, as homelessness increases risk of being a victim of sexual or physical assault.
Poreddi said, “These findings reflect the negative attitude of the community towards people with mental illness,” and adds that global efforts to reduce human rights violations must be increased.
Poreddi, Vijayalakshmi, et al. (2013). People with mental illness and human rights: A developing countries perspective. Indian Journal of Psychiatry 55.2 (2013): 117-24. ProQuest. Web.
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