The classification of mental health has changed over the years and even the treatment of those with mental health disorders and illnesses. There was a time when people were poked, prodded and lock up all in the name of science but that has changed though our modern systems still present their own challenges.
Human rights are defined as a right that is believed to belong to every person and in South Africa people do have a right to mental health care under the the Mental Health Care Act 17 of 2002. The act intends to provide for the care, treatment and rehabilitation of persons who are mentally ill. The constitution of South Africa prohibits against the unfair discrimination of people with mental or other disabilities. The law makes it clear that those who suffer from mental health problems have the right to care but this right can sometimes be diminished through the experience of stigma which might mean that those who do have the right to care don't seek it out because of how they are treated when they do.
I want us to go a step further and think about the psychological chains we place on people in our society even when we are not aware of it, how not wanting to address certain issues may lead to mental distress and by doing this we unknowingly debilitate people and take away their right to mental wellness.
How do we individually and as a society start to address this issue. Through conversation great ideas are born that can lead to change. Which is why Mental Pulse came into existence. Not only do we encourage conversations but we empower people through mental hygiene practices to take back their right to mental health wellness. To be able to recognise that they need help and how to seek it out. Along side this providing communities with knowledge about mental health eradicates stigma which in-turn leads to community members uniting and supporting those most in distress. Chipping away at toxic ideologies that have been cemented by years of false information probably generated by fear.
The South African human rights commission report in 2019 into the status of mental healthcare in the country found that mental health was grossly neglected and under-prioritised. South Africa has a long way to go in making sure that we provide a service that fits all the criteria to serve those in need. We can as a community contribute to this dialogue, lending a voice to mental health to say it is important and should not be left behind.
For more information about the law regarding the rights of mental health users https://www.gov.za/documents/mental-health-care-act