Persons with psychosocial disabilities (mental health problems) are under the protection of the new United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD brings a human rights-based approach to disability: it challenges paternalistic views by emphasizing the person as a rights-holder, an active subject, and not just a passive object of care. It also represents a challenge to mainstream human rights movements and mechanisms who have long paid insufficient attention to human rights of persons with (psychosocial) disabilities.
It is increasingly understood that human rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities (mental health problems) should not be seen in the narrow perspective, as if the only issue was the most controversial one, that is, deprivation of liberty. In many areas, reform-minded psychiatrists have themselves initiated human rights-friendly reforms. For instance, efforts to implement article 19 of the CRPD—independent living and inclusion in the community—are increasingly becoming part of the mainstream in mental health care.
There is potential for further synergy between mental health professionals and human rights activists in looking at the whole range of civil, political, economic, and social rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—realizing that all these rights apply also to persons with psychosocial disabilities, and working together towards removing real-life obstacles to their enjoyment. The building of bridges between the two different types of expertise should be encouraged. In this regard, psychiatry would benefit from more cooperation across borders as well as with international human rights bodies, nongovernmental organizations and persons with psychosocial disabilities themselves.