Let’s make mental health a universal human right, every day of the year

13th October 2023

Earlier this week (Tuesday 10 October), organisations and communities across the globe came together to celebrate World Mental Health Day. The theme this year was “mental health is a universal human right”, and organisers were keen to spread the message that everyone, whoever and wherever they are, has a right to the highest attainable standard of mental health. 

Closer to home, SAMH recently responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on proposals for a new Human Rights Bill, which we expect to come to the Scottish Parliament soon. The proposals aim to protect human rights as much as possible and ultimately to improve people’s lives. 

In our response we made four main arguments:

  • That dignity should be a founding principle in the Bill, and central to how the law is interpreted. We called for a strengthening of this principle so that when courts interpret the law they would be expected – or even required – to consider issues of dignity, rather than just being allowed to should they so choose. 
  • We highlighted the importance of the right to “live independently and be included in the community”. We know from speaking to our service users in supported accommodation that the moment of graduating to independent living is an important marker of recovery. However, we also know that long-standing structural problems, including the lack of easily accessible mental health care and support in the community, represent real barriers to independent living. Persistent delayed discharge from psychiatric hospital, which by its very nature limits a person’s opportunity to live independently, can have a really detrimental effect on their mental health recovery. 
  • We argued that meaningful participation needs to be built into the framework of the Bill; and that elements of the Bill and the obligations it will include should be co-produced with the people it affects, including those with mental health problems. We said that to make this process as effective as possible, co-production processes must be properly resourced. 
  • The consultation includes a list of characteristics which could be covered by the Bill, like age and sex. We have asked the Scottish Government to make sure that disability is part of this list, as this will give disabled people certainty that they are included and that rights not specifically aimed at disabled people, such as the right to a healthy environment, apply to them too.

We support the principle behind these proposals. As Scotland’s mental health charity, we are committed to making sure that our service users’ and supporters’ voices are heard by MSPs as they scrutinise this legislation – because mental health is a human right, not just on World Mental Health Day, but every day of the year.