Mental health is a universal human right

Mental health is a basic human right for all people. Everyone, whoever and wherever they are, has a right to the highest attainable standard of mental health. This includes the right to be protected from mental health risks, the right to available, accessible, acceptable, and good quality care, and the right to liberty, independence and inclusion in the community.
Henriette Lamprecht
Good mental health is vital to our overall health and well-being. Yet one in eight people globally are living with mental health conditions, which can impact their physical health, their well-being, how they connect with others, and their livelihoods. Mental health conditions are also affecting an increasing number of adolescents and young people.

Having a mental health condition should never be a reason to deprive a person of their human rights or to exclude them from decisions about their own health. Yet all over the world, people with mental health conditions continue to experience a wide range of human rights violations. Many are excluded from community life and discriminated against, while many more cannot access the mental health care they need or can only access care that violates their human rights.

In Namibia, the prevalence of mental illnesses is estimated at 25.6% and is expected to double by 2025. The main drivers of mental illnesses in Namibia have been attributed to abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol, chronic infections as well as socio-economic factors among others

The African Region also has the highest suicide rate in the world, estimated at 11.2 per 100 000 population in 2019, compared to a global average of 9.0 per 100 000 according to the Integrated African Health Observatory fact sheet on suicide in the African Region. Similarly, the suicide rate for men is the highest at 18 per 100 000 population in the Region compared to 12.4 per 100 000 population globally.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates Namibia’s suicide rate to be 9.7 in a 100 000 population. This is the fourth highest compared to neighbouring South Africa (23.5), Botswana (16.10) and Zimbabwe (14.1).

Close to one billion of the world population are living with mental illness and the majority have no access to care. In many low-, and medium-income countries most of the help is provided by family members or NGO’s (non-governmental organisations). Our health systems are not well equipped to deal with theGood mental health is an integral part of our overall health and wellbeing.

Good mental health allows us to cope with challenges, connect with others and thrive throughout our lives. It’s vital and deserves to be recocgnised and respected.

Everyone has the right to access quality mental health care.

Because mental health is a universal human right, we all have the right to access quality treatment that meets our needs and respects our rights across our lifetimes.

Mental health conditions are a significant threat to the wellbeing of young people.

Mental health conditions affect one in seven adolescents globally, with depression emerging as a leading cause of adolescent illness and disability.

We must challenge the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health.

We all have the right to live our lives free from stigma and discrimination in places like schools and workplaces.

We all have the right to live independently and be included in the community.

People must have access to good mental health services as well as education, income generation, housing opportunities and social support in order to live independently and be included in their communities.

Good quality community mental health services and supports are crucial for all our futures.

Mental health and well-being are fundamental to enjoy a good and meaningful life. It is vital to ensure that everyone can access community mental health services and supports. In particular, access to mental health support and resources in early life can make a real difference to the health and well-being of young people and adults in later life. This should be promoted as a priority in all countries.

Recognising mental health as a universal human right empowers people to stand up for their rights – and for those around them.

If people are not aware of their human rights, they are not able to advocate for them. By including people with lived experience of mental health conditions in decision-making on mental health issues, new policies, laws and service planning can be positively influenced and guided by their expertise.

You might know your mind – but do you know your rights? Every person’s mind is wonderful, complex and different. But our rights are the same.

By knowing your mental health rights, you can stand up for what’s right – for you and for others.

Ahead of World Mental Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) are jointly launching new guidance, entitled “Mental health, human rights and legislation: guidance and practice”, to support countries to reform legislation in order to end human rights abuses and increase access to quality mental health care.

Human rights abuses and coercive practices in mental health care, supported by existing legislation and policies, are still far too common. Involuntary hospitalization and treatment, unsanitary living conditions and physical, psychological, and emotional abuse characterize many mental health services across the world.

While many countries have sought to reform their laws, policies and services since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, too few have adopted or amended the relevant laws and policies on the scale needed to end abuses and promote human rights in mental health care.

The majority of reported government expenditure on mental health is allocated to psychiatric hospitals (43% in high-income countries). However, evidence shows that community-based care services are more accessible, cost-efficient and effective in contrast to institutional models of mental health care. - Source: WHO

Did you know?


People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely – as much as two decades early – due to preventable physical conditions.



• Feeling sad or down.

• Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.

• Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.

• Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.

• Withdrawal from friends and activities.

• Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.


Republikein 2024-02-26

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