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UN rights expert calls for overhaul of mental health care policies

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Puras, on Tuesday called for a revolutionary overhaul of the mental health care systems around the world. Presenting his report [materials] to the UN Human Righs Council, Puras noted that, in the current system, less than 7 percent of health care budgets globally are dedicated to mental health care. This has led to human rights violations, specifically, a denial of the right to the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health. Puras' report calls for a shift from the current biomedical model of mental health, which views mental health problems as neurobiological issues best treated by medication, to a more rights-based approach. The rights-based model would remedy the stigma, discrimination, and medical coercion experienced by those suffering from mental health problems by focusing on the inherent right to mental health and making sure those who bear a duty to people seeking mental health help understand their duty to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to mental health for all. Puras believes that an overhaul of the current system can be achieved by the people with power in the psychiatric profession taking initiative and integrating mental health into public policy.

The right to the highest attainable standard of health and treatment of those with health problems has been a pressing issue lately. Most recently, in May, the High-Level Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children, and Adolescents released a report [JURIST report] urging world leaders to allocate 5 percent of their GDP to public health spending. Earlier in May Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned [JURIST report] that there are "systemic failures, such as unreasonable delays in care and unqualified medical staff leading to "dangerously subpar" medical care in US immigration detention centers. In September HRW urged [JURIST report] Pakistani authorities not to execute a mentally disabled man, expressing their belief that executing people with mental health conditions is an affront to decency and serves no criminal justice purpose.

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