[en] Oral statement about dignity in mental health by Eric LUCAS, at the World Health Organization, Geneva

Invited at the mhGAP forum 2015 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Eric LUCAS (as an autistic «expert user») has been able to give testimonies and points of view in various meetings and discussions during these two days.

For confidentiality reasons and other reasons, not all of his statements can be published, but here is a statement made by Eric, during the plenary closing session in the Executive Board room, on friday, 9 october 2015, about dignity and human rights in mental health treatment :

Audio recording :

(this was not supposed to get applause  (there were no applauses for the other statements, except another one))

Backup link : in case the audio player above does not work on your system, right-click HERE and select «save target as» or «save link as» and then open the file. 

Text :

«What I understood in this forum, is that everyone is aware that dignity is essential for mental health treatement, and that there are many organizations and people trying to implement that, with action plans and education to human rights.
I find it very good, but from my experience, my user’s point of view, I know that it is not enough if it remains too much abstract and only rules, many times it is not enough to “reach” the person in her mental world, and then to treat her in a really adapted manner, respecting dignity and human rights.

For me, this topic of dignity and human rights, in itself, shows that, even with the best good will of the world, which I can see here, people who want to help have a kind of “protection barrier” which makes them consider the “mentally ill” persons as “deeply different”.
For instance, for the case of your own family you never speak about human rights, regarding its members.

I think that the first step to help the person, is to understand deeply, really, the person. Not with rules, codes, or science, but with good sense, and compassion.

Although I find all your work indispensable and great, I think that the best way

  • to respect the dignity and human rights
  • and to help the people to go better

is to treat them as you would treat the members of your own family, not otherwise.

Every sign of special treatement, even with good will, is felt by us as a discrimination, and inferiorizing, and it cannot help to go better.

The problem is that it is very difficult for “not different people” to put themselves in the shoes of “different people”, and of course it is frightening.

People who are suffering in their brain or mind, or heart, need to be helped without barriers, without judgement, like when you learn a second language you don’t decide that it is inferior or bad.

If you manage to remove the human barriers, as well as the physical barriers (like being in a hospital, which shows to the person that she is seen as “different” and “a problem”), then it will be much easier to help these persons, and then there will be no human rights or dignity problem, like in your family.
Some people are really mentally ill, and sometimes it’s more a matter of point of view.

The social system also, globally, is not sane, and many times this is why people fall into mental suffering.

For me, many problems come from the lack of understanding, and the fear.
And the solution is : real sincere efforts to understand each others, to communicate, to appreciate everyone, instead of putting people in boxes.

And I don’t know how to learn other languages without the help of the users, especially the bilingual ones.

Thank you.»

There is a also a much longer statement by Eric Lucas about Dignity in Mental Health and the Right to be Born, which was too long to be included in the official meetings, but it has been read by the staff and by the Director of the Mental Health Department, Shekhar Saxena, who (surprisingly) sent this letter (in french), explaining that «he would like to thank» Eric LUCAS and that «[his] explanations are very interesting and very useful».

Update of July 2017 : here is a summary report of this forum : http://www.who.int/mental_health/mhgap/report_forum_2015.pdf