On the 24th of June, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Dr. Dainius Pūras, presented a report examining the multiple ways in which human rights intersect with the determinants of mental health and well-being. The report argues that policy responses to mental health remain narrowly focused on treatment, leaving a significant gap in rights-based action on the structural and psycho-social causes of distress or poor mental health.
The report continues the mandate’s exploration of the global state of mental health, complementing his developing body of work that interrogates the obstacles and opportunities for the full realization of the right to mental health. A key message from the Special Rapporteur is that the promotion and protection of human rights (specifically the right to health) are vital for securing an essential psycho-social determinant of well-being: quality relationships and social connection. The Rapporteur emphasizes that connections between individuals, families and communities are critical for the full and effective realization of the right to mental health, indicating an important opportunity to re-balance and target investment in health promoting action in homes, schools, workplaces, healthcare settings and society at large.
While a decades-long and still-growing body of evidence confirms the public policy imperative to take concerted action on structural determinants of well-being, the Special Rapporteur’s report stresses that it is also a legally binding obligation under human rights law. Likewise, human rights and fundamental freedoms themselves are critical determinants of societal well-being. Mental health promotion and policy action on these critical determinants of health must no longer be viewed as a luxury, but as a human rights imperative.