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June 26, 2005

Lack of Adequate Mental Health Laws

The WHO organization is bringing coverage to the lack of adequate mental health laws that have become commonplace in many of the worlds countries. Many countries have laws that are outdated and do not take recent improvements of treatment into account. About a quarter of the worlds countries have no mental health legislation whatsoever. WHO is concerned that these outdated laws are leading to the abuse of patients' right's.

"Outmoded laws tend to focus on care in mental institutions, which can compound patients' suffering and raise the risk of abuse, particularly in countries where the health system lacks resources, said Benedetto Saraceno, head of the WHO's mental health and substance abuse division" (Agence France Presse, 2005).

The WHO advices that people who are mentally ill should be cared for in a community setting. This recommendation is probably due to the fact that a disproportionate number of the worlds legislative systems do not spend much of their time on matters concerning the mentally ill; it is usually not considered a priority, if it is considered at all.

"Mental health laws can be used to lay out basic standards, such as separate sleeping, washing and toilet facilities for male and female patients in institutions, she noted... Mental health laws can also be used to clamp down on many practices long deemed harmful for patients, ranging from use of shackles to misuse of electric shock therapy, said the WHO" (Agence France Presse, 2005).

For those in countries who have regularly updated mental health laws this may seem absurd, maybe even cruel, but it is commonplace in many countries today. Many of these countries are places that have issues to deal with which take the forefront of their policies. For example, a country that is ridden by civil war, famine, or a corrupt government is not going to focus on the needs of the mentally ill and their families. Until those issues are dealt with or fixed, there are not as many opportunities for the mentally ill community to have laws made that will protect their rights.

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The source of this story was the Agence France Presse.


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