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Dignity and mental health care go hand in hand

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Who does not want to be treated with dignity? As a matter of fact all of us! But the sorry part of all talks about dignity is that seldom words match the action when we talk about treating a mentally ill person with all the dignity he or she deserves.


Threat to dignity

The fact of the matter is that worldwide, among human right activists and champions of human dignity, there is a growing concern about the threats to dignity in mental health care. Every day umpteen cases of abuse of mentally unwell persons come to light. Many of these abuses stem from ignorance and a large number of them are perpetrated in violation of all norms of human rights and civic society.

Good news!

The good news is that gradually people around the world are waking up to the gravity of the situation. Research by social scientists into various facets of the problem brings to the fore various areas of concern, needing urgent attention and calling for action.

  • It has been observed that adult mentally ill patients have to suffer social isolation.
  • The focus of curing process needs to start with restoring self-respect and self-esteem.
  • The concept of dignity needs to form part of the governments’ overall mental healthcare policy.
  • Mental health officials and experts need to show respect and dignity towards mentally ill persons while dealing with them.
  • Need to show respect and protect dignity and do away with acts that compromise on both, This are critical steps to early recovery of patients.
  • Problems that need urgent attention are: overcrowded wards, poor quality of workers dealing with mentally ill patients, no arrangements being in place to keep male and female patients in separate wards, lack of facilities and cleanliness of words.
  • It is imperative to ensure curing units are individual patient centric and provide high quality of curing experience for all irrespective of class, colour or creed is provided.
  • Emphasis has to be on good communication and safeguarding of patients’ human-rights.

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On the basis of the shortcomings and lacunae in providing dignified mental healthcare, experts have broadly formulated an action plan to effectively deal with people with mental disorder.

  • Show respect: Showing respect and treating a mentally ill person in the same manner as one treats a fellow human being has to be more a norm than exception. Branding people with some insulting tags because he or she is diagnosed with some mental issue is going to do no good to anyone.
  • Individual centric care: Important to make individual’s preferences, needs and aspirations the focal point of all care and attention. This also means showing dignity to both care provider and the care receiver.
  • Prevent abuse: Address incidents of abuses in a case by case basis, Focus should be on prevention of abuse of mentally ill person. Need to sustain the sense of self-respect among people.
  • Communicate well: Proper communication between mental healthcare experts and the users of services helps both. This entails that the experts are well trained in dealing with attitudes and equipped with necessary communication skills to make the difference to patients’ life. To make communication a two way effective process, the patient, too, needs to learn how to communicate well. But to do that he or she may need adequate support.

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Avoid discrimination

Finally, it is important to realise the importance of taking on any kind of discrimination against mental illness. Experts say this can be achieved through the collective efforts of individuals, local community initiatives besides national mental health programmes, policy and legislative steps. The bottom line is: The dignity for mental health has to be maintained, at all cost!

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