Although reforms have taken place regarding mental health services for people with psychosocial problems, there are several barriers such as the poor cooperation between social and health authorities, lack of human rights compliant community-based services, trans-institutionalization and austerity. 
Many people with mental health problems express even unfamiliarity with the term human rights and advocacy, reflecting the lack of awareness and information.
Many issues derive from a chronic neglect and abuse of the interests and the needs of people with mental health problems.
In many cases, not only people with psychosocial problems, but even professionals are unfamiliar with the human rights perspective. Institutions and decision makers also do not manage to include human rights perspective in policies.
So, we must focus our efforts in different levels: professionals’ training and advocacy, empowerment of people with psychosocial problems and self-advocacy, networking and community sensitization, lobbying towards institutions and policy makers.
Professionals Training and advocacy
The Be Right project BE RIGHT course in Human Rights of People with Mental Illness is a custom made theoretical-practical training tool addressed at health and social professionals in Human Rights of persons with mental illness and serves the aforementioned aims. This training will increase professionals’ knowledge, advocacy skills and ability to include human rights perspective in their everyday work.
Empowerment of users and self-advocacy
A seminar for the empowerment of people with psychosocial problems took place in Athens on January 26-27. Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th of January 2019, , took place in Athens. The seminar titled “From mental health service users to mental health service users” was organized by Society of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health with the collaboration of other organizations .
The innovation of the seminar was based on the concept of being organized by mental health service users for mental health service users encouranging their active participation in its organizational and implementation process as the carers and mental health professionals provided limited support and supervision.
The main topics discussed was the recovery process in mental health as well as the promotion and protection of mental health rights (legal, social, political) , agreed by all participants that should be legally protected and practically implemented. Special emphasis was given on the vocational right-often recorded as disrespected or violated-, as well as on the difficulties of involuntary treatment. Everyone emphasized in the right to work, which is important for the users but in effect very difficult to implement, as well as the difficulties they face regarding the involuntary treatment.
In their turn, mental health professionals focused on the difficulty they often encounter to have an equally balanced relationship with users due to overprotection that /makes the recovery process harder.
It was also identified the need of both users and professionals for education in mental health rights, which led to the decision for a related follow-up meeting next year.
This seminar was the continuity of the initiative of Mental Health Europe about a European Empowerment seminar: This seminar was an ideal occasion to encourage the involvement of people with lived experience of mental ill health in the design of users-friendly mental health services but also in decision-making at European and national level.
This seminar was part of Mental Health Europe’s initiative “European Empowerment Seminar” that set the target to encourage the active participation of people with lived experience of mental illness in the design of user-friendly mental health services as well as in decision making processes at European and national level.
This is and should be an on-going effort towards both directions: the empowerment of people with mental health problems and the awareness raising and lobbying towards EU and National Decision-Making Centers and Institutions.
This should be an ongoing effort towards two directions; the empowerment of people with mental health problems and the development of awareness and lobbying activities in the context of EU and national decision-making centers and institutions.
Networking and Community Sensitization
Networking between services and stakeholders, maximum and flexible use of community resources and community sensitization regarding mental health and human rights are important elements for a human rights- based approach in mental health.
Lobbying: MHE and European Elections 2019
In view of the European Elections 2019, Mental Health Europe -the largest independent network organization representing mental health users, professionals and services providers across Europe- has published a Manifesto titled «Winning Hearts and Minds: Put Mental Health at the Centre of the EU Election Agenda«. Within the same scope was released a video titled “We call for better mental health in Europe”.
MHE addressed this manifesto to a wide range of stakeholders including: MEPs and MEP candidates; policy makers in the European Commission, European Council and Member States; civil society actors like mental health services, users and users organizations, medical associations, research institutions, employers and the general public. European Pillar of Social Rights, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, UN Sustainable developments goals, European Disability Strategy and the European Framework for Action on Mental Health and Well-Being are at the core of the Manifesto.
For more information please read here https://mhe-sme.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/MHE-Manifesto-EU-Elections-2019.pdf, https://mhe-sme.org/videopres-2/
MHE has also organized a Webinar on the upcoming European Elections (March 2019). MHE’s Manifesto for Better mental health in Europe, tips on how to approach candidates and Members of the EU Parliament and how to get involved in the EU Electionswere discussed and presented.
- Identify candidates MEPs who have an interest for mental health,
- Be noisy on social media, address MEPs or candidates online,
- Write letters, share your concerns,
- Invite candidate MEPs to your events or organize open meetings,
- Request meetings / group visits to the Parliament,
- Share with them infographics, short videos, figures, material that can help them understand the issue quickly,
- Visit the European Parliament Information Office in your own country for any local event, are some ways to get involved in and approach candidates and Members of the EU Parliament.
For more information see https://mhe-sme.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/MHE-Webinar-EU-Elections.pdf and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QVxmH1oJNs
An additional reference is the booklet published by MHE titled “KEEP IN MIND: A quick guide to European Institutions and EU policy-making relevant to mental health and people with mental health problems”. For more information see here https://mhe-sme.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/KEEP-IN-MIND-FINAL.pdf
Moreover, MHE has joined ILGA Europe and 20+ European organizations in the #ElectNoHate appeal, a joint appeal for EU elections campaigning free from intolerance, discrimination, hate speech and divisive rhetoric.
For more information, please, visit the following link https://mhe-sme.org/mhe-joins-the-electnohate-appeal/
This information remains still useful and relevant on how to lobby for mainstreaming mental health issues among the priorities of policy makers.
Evie Mylonaki, Maria Paschoula, Panagiota Fitsiou, Sofoulis Tataridis, EKP&PSY.