Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Human Rights Path to Recovering Humanity in Mental Health Policy

No Rights, No Recovery

The Human Rights Paradigm offers more than critique of medical model 'mental illness'.  It offers a complete theory of how to create/ regain our health and well-being.  Thus armed, we can deliberately set out to reverse the injury to our humanity. 
Our problems came from ignorance of human rights and the need for them. (We discussed this in depth in prior blogs) This allowed others to ignore our needs or use us for their needs.  We didn't understand how to respond in a way that would make things better, rather than worse, for us and others. 
The solution comes from human rights awareness.  Here we develop awareness of our own nature and needs as human beings. From this vantage point, we are able to consciously think through how to build our capacity to support human rights.  This necessarily entails developing our capacity to realize our own needs and support those of others. 

Principles of Psychosocial Well-Being

The human rights paradigm offers several principles to guide our efforts:

1. Human family

This is our birthright. No matter what we do, we can never lose it. No matter who we are, we must strive to live up to it. The quality of the lives we create with each other depends on this principle.

2. Inherent dignity

This frames our relationships as strengths based. It means that everyone of us have worth, and something worthy of offering. Our obligation is to look for this in everyone we meet.

3. Rights

These are what the mental health system terms 'boundaries.' The function of boundaries is two-fold. They both keep out and keep in.

  • In keeping out, they say to each of us: Your right to dominate ends where my personhood begins (and vice versa). 
  • In keeping in, they challenge everyone to ask: How can we support each other’s access to the resources that all of us need to live, feel and be well? 

4. Reason

We have the ability to appreciate cause and effect. We can make sense of experience. Each of us acts in ways that make sense, based on our experience. This counsels us to judge less and question more. It helps us to listen and learn.

5. Conscience

Conscience is about our capacity to care. Things (called values) matter to us. We care about some values (our priorities) more than others. We express this through the choices we make. 

Conscience is what makes us more than robots. How things affect us - and how we affect others - makes a difference to us.

6. Reason-conscience interaction. 

If we put them together, the principles of reason and conscience have a lot to teach us about ourselves and each other. Reason asks us to look for why something makes sense.  Conscience helps us see things as choices. 

Viewed through this bifocal lens, every thought, feeling and action provides a clue for understanding human experience.  

  • Per conscience: Some part of someone cared to produce it. Otherwise it wouldn't exist. 
  • Per reason: The question is why? 
  • Per both in tandem: 
    • What kind of effect were we hoping for?  
    • How did that particular outcome fit with our values?  
    • Why was that value preferred over others?
    • What life experiences shaped those preferences? 
    • What conclusions were drawn at that time and why? 
    • Do those conclusions still hold true? 
    • Are there impacts we didn't foresee then that matter now?
    • Are there new options now that could be considered?  
    • With everything out on the table, does this still seem like our best choice?
    • If so, how will that impact the choices of others, including relationships we care about sustaining? 

Get Ready for Blast Off

On the surface, these are simple concepts.  But if you unpack them, they hold a world of potential. The implications are, truly, vast and revolutionary.
  • The most important stuff we offer each other doesn’t cost a nickel. 
  • There is no higher law. 
  • No profession can license this. 
  • No corporation can patent, bottle or sell this. 
  • No Government can withdraw our funding. 
  • It exists if we create it. 
  • We can never afford to ignore it.
  • We are never off the hook to live it.

  • Welcome to the human family.
    There is no other.

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