Year 2020 – President Ingrid Daniels
The Human Rights Section for the term of office of Dr. Ingrid Daniels as President of the World Federation for Mental Health, 2019-2021, is consists of: Yoram Cohen ((Chair), Michael Burge, Chueh Chang, Hugo Cohen, Julie Millard, Kamau Michael Kariuki and Porsche Poh.
During the year of 2020, the Human Rights Section has compiled 3 declarations:
1. December 2019: WFMH Declaration on Potential Human Rights Abuse, Malpractice or Discrimination for Users/consumers in Egypt.
The WFMH highly concerned about the recent proposed developments in Egypt’s mental health legislation. The proposed changes to the Egyptian MH law concerning involuntary Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT)may violate basic human rights principles and professional standards. We are concerned by attempts to misrepresent ECT as something else by calling it “Brain Synchronization Treatment”.
The Federation believes that excluding patients and families from the MH Act is highly concerning; it defeats the principle of having a mental health legislation protecting the rights of people with mental illness.
We are calling the Egyptian Parliament to look and review licensing criteria for psychotherapist. This welcomed step should strengthen this cornerstone of MH care. We urge you to review Egypt’s MH Legislation so it would be another step forward in protecting the rights of people with mental disorders.
2. February 2020: WFMH Declaration on the mental health crisis in Venezuela.
The WFMH is highly concerned about the MH crisis in Venezuela. Because of the current economic crisis, the situation in Venezuela is dire, and many people are suffering greatly. Mental illnesses are getting worse and rates for addiction and suicide are on the rise. Extensive research done since 2015 has shown that the population as a whole has been profoundly affected by the crisis and studies reveal a predominance of negative emotions such as sadness and despair.
MH institutions are scarcely functioning, there are severe shortages of medical supplies and antipsychotic medications at hospitals. Families who desire medication for their loved ones need to by it themselves; however, since it costs more than ten times the monthly minimum wage, many are simply are unable to do so.
At present, life is hard enough for the Venezuelan people without being in the untenable position of serving as a doctor, nurse and warden for loved ones whose already-severe mental illnesses are further deteriorated because of the current situation.
Basic human rights require that vital resources be redirected toward improving conditions in psychiatric hospitals so that patients can receive the necessary care, food, medications and medical treatment to which they are entitled.
The situation in Venezuela is indeed dire, but the situation of MH goes beyond dire – it is catastrophic. Venezuela should develop a national MH policy and adopt a MH Act that pursue community-based patient-oriented recovery interventions. It is also recommended that care for people experiencing mental distress will be provided in general hospitals or at the Primary Health Care level with families receiving recognition and support.
The WFMH calls on the government of Venezuela to immediately address this dire and distressing situation. We call on all stakeholders to raise their voices in a unified demand for immediate action.
3. June 2020: WFMH Declaration on the COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis.
The WFMH is deeply concerned about the MH crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The WFMH reiterates its appeal to countries and their governments to promote national MH plans for managing the MH consequences of COVID-19.
As is seen globally, there is increasing anxiety and depression and a rise in MH admissions in hospitals. The situation in psychiatric hospitals is dire and the WFMH is deeply concerned about the safety of patients and health-care providers, as well as the prevention of patients’ rights in these trying times. Due to safety considerations, patients are being directed to remain in their rooms, leading to a feeling of increased isolation. This forced isolation – which runs contrary to all the fundamental tenets of care in such facilities – can potentially have dire consequences for their mental health, particularly for people who are depressed and/or suicidal.
COVID-19 confronts the MH care establishments with a seemingly impossible dilemma engendered by the effects of isolation and physical distancing. On the one hand, physical distancing is a key method for constraining the spread of the disease while on the other hand, isolation can be extremely dangerous for patients in a psychiatric hospital, particularly those who are experiencing anxiety, confusion and depression.
In light of this situation, the WFMH calls on governments to develop clear policies and protocols to ensure greater protection against the increase in infection for patients within psychiatric hospitals where the situation is dire. MH is no less important than physical health and indeed the two are closely interlinked. The lives of all people are valuable, whether or not they suffer from a mental illness or have cognitive disabilities. Notwithstanding the unique challenges posed by COVID-19, people with MH challenges too have the right to safety, protection, care and human policies that take into account their individual mental health needs and safeguards their vulnerability.
The 3 full declarations were published at the WFMH website