Across Australia, every day, people in mental health services are locked up against our will, given powerful and potentially dangerous medications by force, given electro-convulsive therapy (ECT, or shock therapy) that can permanently erase our memories, and locked into seclusion rooms and restraints.
These forced treatments are allowed through mental health legislation in every state and territory. What many consumers may not realise is that these acts, and their consequences, are contrary to international human rights protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Even though Australia seems to be not compliant with the CRPD, its existence has given many of us hope that one day we can improve our rights. This report by the United Nations about Australia’s lack of compliance with the CRPD has been read and shared by many consumers:
33. The Committee is further concerned that under Australian law a person can be subjected to medical intervention against his or her will, if the person is deemed to be incapable of making or communicating a decision about treatment.
34. The Committee recommends that the State party repeal all legislation that authorizes medical intervention without the free and informed consent of the persons with disabilities concerned, committal of individuals to detention in mental health facilities, or imposition of compulsory treatment, either in institutions or in the community, by means of Community Treatment Orders.
35. The Committee is concerned that persons with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual impairment or psychosocial disability, are subjected to unregulated behaviour modification or restrictive practices such as chemical, mechanical and physical restraints and seclusion, in various environments, including schools, mental health facilities and hospitals.
36. The Committee recommends that the State party take immediate steps to end such practices, including by establishing an independent national preventive mechanism to monitor places of detention — such as mental health facilities, special schools, hospitals, disability justice centres and prisons —, in order to ensure that persons with disabilities, including psychosocial disabilities, are not subjected to intrusive medical interventions.
Office of the High Commissioner, United Nations. Concluding observations on the initial report of Australia, adopted by the Committee at its tenth session. 2-13 September 2013. Download here.
But now it seems that even the CRPD may be at risk of failing to address our needs. This campaign aims to remind the United Nations that the rights of people diagnosed with mental illness matter.