In the last five years, the intersection between mental health and human rights has become more explicit with influential national and international health and human rights institutions issuing reports and recommendations on the topic. These include reports from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Mental Health (United Nations, 2017), American Psychological Association (Asanbe, Gaba, and Yang, 2018), World Health Organization (2017), and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (2017) to cite just a few examples. In addition to these reports, the United Nation’s High Commissioner writes that, “(the) right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a fundamental human right indispensable for the exercise of other human rights” (United Nations, 2017, para 4). According to World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (World Health Organization, 2018, para. 2).
One of the largest barriers that has been identified around access to mental health services is social stigma. The United Nations High Commissioner writes that "stereotyping, prejudice and stigmatization is present in every sphere of life, including social, educational, work and health-care settings, and profoundly affects the regard in which the individual is held, as well as their own self-esteem. The lack of systematic training and awareness-raising for mental health personnel on human rights as they apply to mental health allows stigma to continue" (United Nations, 2017, para 16). Given this barrier, the strategy should include support for anti-stigma campaigns across the university aligned with a human rights focus. The World Health Organization (2017) has developed documents "to provide training and guidance on how to integrate a human rights approach in mental health and related areas, based on international human rights instruments, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities" (p. 7).
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner also recommends that services be “culturally appropriate, that is, respectful of the culture of individuals, minorities, peoples and communities, sensitive to gender and life-cycle requirements” (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2000, para 12c).
Finally, as Gemignani, M., & Hernández-Albújar write in the European Psychologist "focusing only on personal suffering not only promotes a view of psychology as an individualistic discipline, but also distorts its attention from other readings of that suffering that may locate it socially and culturally. For instance, social reconstructions of traumatic memories may not necessarily pass through individual debriefing and may greatly benefit from psychological practices that are based on collective and cul- tural rememberings of the past".