Mental health status quo should move away from ‘outdated approach


Exaggerated benefits of psychotropic medications have led to an overuse of medicalization and institutionalisation, according to a UN envoy.

UN Special Rapporteur Dainius Pūras said that there are no biological markers for mental health conditions.

“The global mental health status quo should move away from the outdated ‘mad or bad’ approach which seeks to prevent behaviours deemed as ‘dangerous’ or provide treatment considered ‘medically necessary’ without consent,” he said.

Pointing out that the state governments, civil society, psychiatric organizations and World Health Organization must change the way they address mental health challenges, he called for a shift towards understanding the context behind mental distress.

He noted that the status quo in mental health care ignored the social, political or existential context that contributes to high prevalence of sadness, anxiety, fear and other manifestations of mental distress.

Pointing out that no simplified mechanistic solution existed for mental distress, Pūras said that psychosocial and other social interventions are essential option for treatment for majority of mental health conditions.
He opined that systemic obstacles like power irregularities in mental health care, dominance of biomedical standards and biased use of knowledge must be addressed by changes in laws, policies and practices.

He said that mental health care action and investment should be redirected to rights based supports, non-coercive alternatives that address psychosocial determinants of health and development of practices that are non-violent, trauma-informed, community-led, healing and culturally sensitive.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation.


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