Statement by Tina Minkowitz, on behalf of the Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry
General Debate, CRPD Conference of States Parties 16 th Session 2023
I want to honor our dear friend Jolijn Santegoeds, a worldwide leader in the movement of people with psychosocial disabilities, who ended her life this year. Jolijn inspired us not only through her human rights advocacy but by seeking justice for the abuses committed against her personally in the psychiatric system. In her memory we redouble our efforts for justice towards each individual who has been traumatized by electroshock, neuroleptic drugs, restraints and solitary confinement, by the psychological torture of institutionalization itself which seems to close the door on hope.
The harms of institutionalization do not end when a person is released; even in freedom the impact of past trauma continues. Our relationships with family and friends can be destroyed.
We are often impoverished and have lost a home and personal possessions. Our schooling or employment is interrupted; this makes it difficult to apply for jobs without disclosing the reason for gaps in our personal timeline. Psychiatric drugs can cause lasting changes in the brain that make it difficult to withdraw from those drugs, and cause irreversible damage to the liver, kidney, and endocrine systems as well as the brain.
These are some of the harms for which reparations are required, as called for by the CRPD Guidelines on Deinstitutionalization. A clear priority is to stop harm and address immediate needs – that means, stopping all psychiatric detentions and forced interventions, releasing all people currently subject to such detentions, and providing them with emergency assistance if they choose to leave. These measures can be conceptualized as forms of reparation: cessation of violations, restitution and guarantees of non-repetition.
There has been little progress in States Parties towards the abolition of forced psychiatric interventions. Mexico has enacted groundbreaking legislation that established the right torefuse mental health treatment or hospitalization, and which includes respect for the person’s legal capacity and decision-making. All countries should follow suit, and should enforce and interpret such legislation in line with the Guidelines on Deinstitutionalization, as the first step to providing comprehensive reparation to all survivors.