Equality & Upholding Human Rights – Road to Geneva
Tallaght Trialogue to address UN Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural RightsNext week, we will travel to Geneva, a place known for clocks and chocolate to undertake a presentation that we have spent the past year working towards. So no beautiful times-pieces or chocolate for us but instead the unique chance to speak on behalf of Tallaght Trialogue on the inter-twined issues of Human Rights and Mental Health.
Article 12.1 of the ICESCR Covenant covers the right to Health and states: ‘The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of Physical and Mental Health’. Tallaght Trialogue is an advocacy group that supports vital and open conversation about mental health between professionals, carers and service users. We are taking part in the upcoming review at the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights in Geneva which will focus on Ireland and its Human Rights record. The Irish Government, led by Minister of State Sen Sherlock TD, will be explaining how it believes it has upheld its duty to protect Human Rights. The UN Committee will also be looking at other interest group reports, including a presentation by Tallaght Trialogue.
In addition to our own direct submissions HERE &HERE & HERE Tallaght Trialogue also submitted to a joint civil society report ‘OurVoicesOurRights’ coordinated by FLAC and will be travelling as a Group with a number of other NGO’s, highlighting Human Rights issues covered under ICESCR Covenant . In addition MindFreedom Ireland made a submission here to the Committee last year on the use of Coercion, Psychotropic Medication and Electroshock in Psychiatric System.
In its submission to this process, Tallaght Trialogue focused on the effects of pathologising of emotional and mental distress , the frequent lack of real informed consent (particularly around side effects of medications) and the use of Coercion in our Mental Health System. Equality and upholding Human Rights needs to be extended to include responses to those in acute distress. It stressed that effective supports could include approaches such as ‘Open Dialogue’ which supports those experiencing distress in family situations and ‘Hearing Voices Approach’ Training which allows those who experience voice hearing to develop new coping skills through a new relationship with this experience. Approaches such as this are based on emerging international best practice and are consistent with the philosophy of Tallaght Trialogue, which promotes an open and engaged dialogue around mental health.
This is similar to approaches promoted by groups such as the Critical Voices Network and Renew, a peer support group that provides support groups, contacts and network around Ireland for people experiencing mental and emotional distress. To quote Psychologist Lucy Johnston ‘Giving someone a Psychiatric diagnosis is an immensely powerful act which has profound implications for their identity, relationships, place in the community, employment, health and future’ In Tallaght Trialogue, we firmly believe that the issues individuals experience in Ireland when inter-acting with mental health services are human rights issues and impact on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of all citizens who experience mental and emotional distress. Coercion is regrettably still a feature of the Psychiatric System in Ireland. A Vision for Change’ (2006) link which outlined Government Policy in relation to Mental Health Services has not achieved what it set out to do and needs to be updated, prioritising provision for alternative holistic pathways to recovery.
The work of groups such as Tallaght Trialogue in advocacy and dialogue and Renew in peer support is vital in creating new understandings of the experience of human distress, a distress that deserves to be understood and not merely pathologised. The Hearing Voices Network of Ireland (HVNI) link was launched on 17th April 2015 in the School of Nursing & Midwifery in Trinity College. A momentous day for all those individuals who have not found it empowering to have distress around hearing voices pathologised into ‘Mental Disorders’. Whilst some people feel they benefit from services and treatment, many others feel abused, tortured (see presentation by Tina Minkowitz at UN), suffer severe damage to physical health, can be left without a shred of human dignity and sadly have to recover from the Diagnosis and ‘Treatment’ in addition to original distress/trauma. This is a perversion of healing and is tragically common in our country.
Sustainable long term funding and support for these humane approaches needs to be prioritised. With respect to disabled persons, Ireland has failed to repeal the 19th century law, which continues to deny thousands of people their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In addition, Ireland remains one of only three EU Members States not to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The recent review of the Mental Health Act link did not take the views of Trialogue members into account, and proposals as they stand would still allow an individual (even if they originally presented in a voluntary capacity) receive forced detention, psychotropic drugging and even possibly Electroshock (ECT) against their express wishes, even if they had made an Advanced Healthcare Directive (AHCD) in advance when they were deemed to have ‘capacity’. This is clearly not acceptable in Civilised Society in 2015.
Proposed Capacity Legislation requires major amendments and urgent oral hearings to debate same are required, we hope Tallaght Trialogue can have our voice heard. We thank Eilionoir Flynn and Centre for Disability Law & Policy for their continued advocacy around these issues and Eilionoir for her most recent blog post around ICESCR Review.Jim Winters of Inclusion Ireland highlighted issues in recent article in the Journal.ie as they cannot travel to Geneva on this occasion, but did contribute to joint parallel report, Tallaght Trialogue hopes to raise some of the issues they advocate for directly with the Committee. With respect to some of our most vulnerable in society, those with Intellectual Disability we need to see an end to pathologising and medicating distress and use of psychotropic medication to sedate and restrain.
Current vision for Intellectual Disability services has put an end to funding new residential places for Intellectual Disability in Congregated Settings. However, there is an absence of an agreed policy/funding for individualised solutions for Intellectual Disability based on assessed needs, including those with complex medical needs requiring 24 hour nursing/medical care in the Community. Following the examination on 8th and 9th June, the UN Committee will make its assessment and issue conclusions and recommendations to Ireland, normally within a month of the Hearing. This is a unique opportunity for us to continue our work to link the issues of Mental Health Services and Human Rights. We look forward to highlighting the need for the Irish Government to implement sustainable long term funding for empowering approaches to mental and emotional distress , respectful of Human Rights so that progressive realisation of ESC rights can be achieved for every Irish Citizen and Asylum Seeker in Ireland. We thank Tallaght Institute of Technology where we hold our monthly meetings.
We especially thank Sheila Booth, and the community in Dublin 15 for helping to make this submission a reality. Sincere thanks to all the individuals and Businesses who sponsored us in any way they could and to the young people from Mount Sackville, Castleknock Community College, Castleknock College (including past pupil Kevin Hanway) & St. Brigids National School, Beechpark who helped, many without even being asked.
Thanks also to those in Dublin 7 , 15, 22 & 24 who baked for us. As there was no State support for Civil Society to make submissions under ICESCR or travel to Geneva, we feel privileged that it was the generosity of Civil Society itself in times of austerity that is helping put Human Rights and Equality on the map at the UN in relation to Intellectual Disability and those experiencing Emotional Distress who feel they need to access support services.