Advances in Mental Health, Vol 9, No 2 (2010)

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The physical health of people with mental illness and ‘the right to health’

Samantha Battams, Julie Henderson


Objective:  People with mental illness are particularly vulnerable to having their human rights violated, due to stigma, their social and living conditions, access to human rights, and the way in which both health and mental health policy and programmes are implemented. The physical health of people with mental illness is now a major human rights concern which can be explained by their access to the social determinants of health, including access to health care, along with access to human rights law and processes. This paper presents an overview of literature on the ‘right to health’ for people with a mental illness, with a focus on physical health. 

Methods: A review of key online databases for articles on the ‘right to health’ was conducted for 2000-2010.

Results:  The review provides evidence on the poor health status of this group, before considering the international human rights legislation and context, including the tensions presented by mental health legislation in terms of human rights. Dimensions of the ‘right to health’ are then presented before ‘issues and obstacles’ for the fulfilment of the ‘right to health’ are explored.  The paper concludes by considering opportunities and obstacles in the Australian context for fulfilment of the ‘right to health’ for people with mental illness.

Conclusion:  There area many barriers to the recognition of right to health for the mentally ill however the new UN Convention on Persons with Disability offers some hope for the ‘right to health’ to be considered through legislative review and national policy.

Advances in Mental Health

ISSN 1837-4905
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