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PROactive Management of Integrated

Services & Environments



Tine Van Bortel

Senior Research Associate in Public Health, Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge

Dr Tine Van Bortel (PhD) is a Senior Research Associate in Public Health at the University of Cambridge, Associate Professor of Health Policy at the University of Strathclyde, mandated council member with the World Economic Forum (Global Agenda Council on Mental Health) and consultant with the World Health Organisation (Mental Health and Substance Abuse). Tine Van Bortel has an interdisciplinary background in humanities, social sciences and health sciences with specific focus on global mental health and capacity building, as well as an accredited Professional qualification and practical experience as a Therapeutic Coach (integrating counselling, Mindfulness, CBT and coaching) and in mental health first aid. She also has years-long experience as an informal mental health carer.

Human Rights in Mental Health: a Global Necessity

All around the world, but specifically in low and middle income countries, people with psychosocial disabilities continue to experience a wide range of human rights violations and are subjected to stigma and discrimination in the community, including social exclusion within families and communities, and discrimination in employment, education and housing. Individuals also experience the abuse of basic entitlements such as being denied their civil, economic, political and social rights. Additionally, laws and practices in many countries systematically deny people with psychosocial disabilities the right to exercise their legal capacity and make decisions for themselves on issues affecting them. Instead third parties, such as health professionals, government officials or family members make all decisions in their place, including what treatment they should receive, where they should live, and other personal, administrative and financial matters. Abuse, inhumane and degrading treatment is also commonplace. Many people with psychosocial disabilities can experience the denial of the right to care, while others experience neglect and violence in hospitals, private institutions, community facilities, or even in their own home. These human rights infringements have been referred to as a “failure of humanity” by Kleinman (2009).

Low mental health literacy among vulnerable communities and populations has been found to be a leading cause of stigmatization, discrimination and human rights abuses toward individuals affected by psychosocial issues. Coupled with this longstanding problem, a persistent worldwide increase in incidence and prevalence of psychosocial conditions has recently compelled many in the global health community to initiate efforts aimed at improving mental health systems and services in various contexts. However, the area of human rights remains a key gap in the field of mental health. Little progress can be made in the field of mental health until human rights are addressed.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has made tackling human rights violations and promoting quality care a key part of their Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020. WHO argues that a human rights perspective is essential in responding to the global burden of mental disorders. The action plan emphasises the need for mental health strategies, actions and interventions for treatment, prevention and promotion to be compliant with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and other international and regional human rights instruments. The vision of the action plan is to create a world in which mental health is valued, promoted and protected, and psychosocial disability is prevented. Furthermore, it aims to ensure that persons affected are able to exercise the full range of human rights and to access high quality, culturally-appropriate health and social care in a timely way to promote recovery, attain the highest possible level of physical and mental health and participate fully in society, free from stigmatization, discrimination and human rights violations.

To this effect, Tine Van Bortel’s previous, current and forthcoming global mental health work and its underpinning values align very well with those of PROMISE-Global; hence, active collaborations will be explored to join forces to make Quality of Care and Human Rights a reality for all.