Mental Health as a Human Right

Psychologists can play a role in shaping human rights law. This is because, according to the United Nations, the right to health is an inalienable human right, such that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition” (United Nations, 2008).  The UN’s definition of health not only includes physical well-being but also mental and social well-being. Moreover, the UN states that all human rights are interdependent and interrelated. In other words, the right to health is tightly bound up with other human rights, and violations upon these other human rights impact the right to health.

Psychologists can shape public policy by revealing how various human rights violations impact citizens’ right to mental health. Mental health practitioners have attested to “gross human rights violations” as the root cause of marginalized people’s mental illness. In this vein, the World Health Organization recognizes that “all humans have the right to mental health and to be protected from social conditions that have detrimental effects on their psychosocial well-being.” Since mental health is a basic human right, a society’s public policies must ensure the sociopolitical conditions necessary to maintain citizens’ right to mental health.

This project’s research findings contribute an existential psychology perspective to the discourse about human rights. The research findings suggest that the lived experience of the LGBTQ closet entails a traumatic loss of truth, freedom, love, hope and power. Truth, love, freedom, hope and power are existential needs which are essential to sustain all people’s mental health. Therefore, they can also be considered existential rights. In order for a society to ensure that all its citizens have access to their basic human right to mental health, it must also ensure that LGBTQ persons have access to their existential right to truth, love, freedom, hope and power.