What Role can the United Nations Play in Rights-Based Global Mental Health?

Scholars explore the role of the United Nations in shaping global mental health priorities.


In a new book, Takashi Izutsu and Atsuro Tsutsumi from the University of Tokyo examine the United Nation’s (UN) involvement in the Movement for Global Mental Health. Their work outlines how the UN works in combination with partners, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, as well as specific UN agencies, like the UN Population Fund and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to shape international efforts to address mental health. Their work will be published in the forthcoming book Innovations in Global Mental Health, edited by Samuel Okpaku.

“Although the United Nations (UN) is a strategic and critical partner for global mental health, the work of the UN in this area is not well known among mental health stakeholders,” the authors write. “To increase such knowledge and the probability of working with the UN, this chapter describes the UN system, its efforts to realize global mental health and well-being, and the way forward based on partnerships.”

United Nations logo in UN headquarters in Manhattan New York CityThe UN has frequently worked with the WHO on global mental health and wellness issues. The WHOs most recent initiatives and stances on global mental health are in alignment with and inspired by a rights-based approach that grew out of efforts from the United Nations.

However, the influence of the UN and the rights-based approach to mental health on the larger Movement for Global Mental Health remains to be seen.

The United Nations is made up of 193 member states. In recent years, the issue of mental health has grown in importance to the United Nations general assembly (GA), where all member states participate and are represented equally. The most well-known mental health and psychosocial disability convention that was voted on in the United Nations General Assembly is the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). However, the chapter authors find the GA’s emphasis on mental health in the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both of which were adopted in 2015, of particular importance.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was brought to the General Assembly in 2006 by the Philippines, Mexico, and New Zealand and was then adopted unanimously. The authors explain that the CRPD recognizes:

“’Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others;’ thereby, including persons with mental health conditions or psychosocial disabilities and persons with intellectual disabilities. An important characteristic of the Convention is that it is legally binding for those countries that have ratified it. CRPD was ratified by 181 countries as of July 2020.”

The CRPD requires that member states promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, such as the right to education, employment, health, living independently, equal recognition before the law, and freedom from torture. The CRPD also has an ‘Optional Protocol’ ratified by 96 member states, which allows individuals or groups to bring a complaint before the Committee when one of their CRPD rights has been violated.

Meanwhile, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Pathways to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasize mental health and wellness differently. The development goals established fifteen years prior made no mention of mental health or disability. However, many stakeholders from across the globe worked to ensure that mental health and well-being would be emphasized as a global humanitarian and financial priority through 2030.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) monitors the SDGs every year. This report is weighed heavily in a follow-up review of the 2030 agenda. The indicators represented in the report are suicide mortality rate, coverage of treatment intervention for substance abuse disorders, and harmful use of alcohol. All 193 member states are required to report on these three indicators. These reports then allow for more comprehensive interventions to be implemented by the GA later.

The authors conclude:

“In the end, it will be important for the entire international community, including the UN, to employ mental health and well-being as a key and foundational indicator for sustainable development, peace and security, and human rights, beyond traditional indicators such as mortality, GDP, productivity, environment, and gender since emotional aspects are invisible, but a most influential foundation for all of these. To realize all of these, stronger collaboration between the mental health community and the UN system is necessary, as this will enable transformative capabilities in many areas.”



Izutsu, T., & Tsutsumi, A. (2021). Role of the United Nations in Global Mental Health. Innovations in Global Mental Health, 49-62.


  1. “The CRPD requires that member states promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, such as the right to education, employment, health, living independently, equal recognition before the law, and freedom from torture. The CRPD also has an ‘Optional Protocol’ ratified by 96 member states, which allows individuals or groups to bring a complaint before the Committee when one of their CRPD rights has been violated.”

    Not if they’re unintentionally negatively outcomed first.

    ‘My’ government has ratified both the CRPD and the O.P. and they simply deny you access to any legal representation via threats and intimidation, and breach virtually every one of the Articles of the Convention against the use of Torture to ensure that the individual can NOT make a complaint about being subjected to acts of State sanctioned torture. (refouler, in for a penny, ……)

    Not that anyone would listen to what I am saying, never mind look at the letter I have from our ‘great protector’, who denies any knowledge of the legal protections afforded the community, whilst doctor sorts out his ‘little problem’ with a snow job or unintended negative outcome. Lot of good your ‘rights’ are when your being surrounded by 15 thugs and injected with a ‘hotshot’ for daring to attempt to exercise your ‘right’ to complain about being tortured huh?

    Hi, i’d like to make a complaint about my ‘treatment’. “We’ll fuking destroy you” is the response from the State, who, after examining the documented proof realises they simply can’t provide the documents to your legal representatives because ……. they prefer the “edited” version of reality.

    Their ‘high ethical standards’ and need for ‘mental hygiene’ basically justifying anything they wish to call ‘medicine’. Not that such “justifiable explanations” for ethnic cleansing haven’t been seen before. “we were trying to save your marriage” being justification for ‘spiking’ with date rape drugs and lying to police to have them cause an acute stress reaction (can you beat the mental patient for me, because he is reluctant to talk. And if he doesn’t open his mouth, I can’t put words into it and make him sound insane. Chief Psychiatrist can then use that fraudulent document [produced via an act of torture] to utter with and defend these unlawful actions. We’re here to ‘help’, and we call this ‘care’, and the laws designed to protect your human and civil rights get in the way of the provision of that ‘help’ and ‘care’).

    I have been denied access to legal representation, and am being denied the right to even be allowed to complain to any Committee. When the State can slander you with labels which can be made up by the bearing of false witness, and you can be forced treated against your will for that slander, and the truth can be “edited” out of existence while you are snowed or outcomed, what good are such noble words?

    I have written on numerous occasions to these people, and they don’t even have the decency to acknowledge my existence, never mind bother to look at the documented proof I have.

    Still, when ‘health care’ is matched by the words of George Orwell (want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face).


    I don’t suppose looking is warranted. More a case of a blind eye is best if you don’t want your family threatened by the State. The Minister smirks when telling us that the matter has been referred to “professional standards” KNOWING that this is a dead end (Corrina Horvath and the U.N. can fuk off when it comes to police. See the report by Senator Marshall), and that the victim now in an ‘induced coma’ (snowed) has got no means of making a complaint.

    Happy Human Rights Day by the way. Qu’ils mangent de la brioche?

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  2. I consider any involvement of the United Nations rather like that dangerous statement, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
    Someone mentioned the statement that people have the right to be ill. Yes, but they have an even stronger right to be healthy and well.
    The United Nations will not help this, but anything that involves “mental health/mental illness” devised by any one entity will not help either.
    If you want to be “mentally healthy” stay away from those who think they know all about mental health and illness, like the the psychiatrists and their ilk. And don’t buy into their lies. You will love longer, happier and healthier. Thank you.

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    • I tend to agree rebel.

      I know that when the United Nations reported that Australia’s mental health laws were a violation of human rights and that the treatments may constitute torture, the laws were rather quickly changed by our State Parliament. The mantra of our politicians for these change was that we had “added protections”, and who could argue with that? Isn’t that what we all want? Added protections?

      What they failed to mention was who the recipients of those “added protections” were, and it certainly wasn’t the patients. Doctors had been concerned about the administration of ECTs to teenagers (and the inability to force/coerce sterilisation without parental consent), and had been reluctant to do them for fear of being sued. With the “added protections” of the law, the number of children being given shock treatments went through the roof (195% increase). Community Treatment Orders? I haven’t looked at the numbers for my State but …… in another State where it was said in Parliament that this was the closing of a loophole which would effect approximately 80 or so people, then within months of the laws passing there were more than 3000 ‘patients’ being force drugged in their homes.

      So what it looked like to me was that the U.N. condemns the human rights abuses occurring in Australia, and the States invalidate their statement (which took a long time to make) with “added protections” and make what were laws that violated human rights agreements even worse than they were. For patients that is. as as the situation deteriorates, (more suicides, more deaths, sicker people on welfare for eternity) they need more money to fix the problem they are creating. Ever hear talk of a ‘fix’ (always from a doctor) without a demand for large sums of money?

      Of course it’s all talk, like the quote attributed to Marie Antoinette (then let them eat cake). People are being tortured and killed, then let them have MORE human rights. Human rights with butter and eggs (added protections).

      Until these breaches of human rights start effecting those who are passing and neglecting to enforce the laws associated with human rights, I doubt very much that anything said by the U.N. will be heard. But I note with interest that there are those who are specifically targeting wealthy members of our community for wealth extraction using the mental health system. One they have enslaved your child, is their anything you wouldn’t sell to have them made ‘well’? (ie, stop the ‘treatments’….. please?)

      “Added protections”, just don’t mention that they don’t provide protections of human rights, but protect doctors who are engaging in barbaric practices from being sued. That and the ability to “edit” legal narratives in documents before providing them to legal representatives (called criminal fraud in most democracies). Passing laws that meet the requirements of Human Rights agreements which are then ignored by those charged with the enforcement of to protect the vulnerable community does NOT meet the conditions of the agreement. It’s smoke and mirrors.

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      • Actually, “human rights” is a bogus term. The United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution state that rights can only be given by our Creator.(God). So, when I hear or read the term, “human rights” I think who is trying to play God. And anytime, anyone is trying to play God in any situation, you can bet that some form of authoritarianism is involved and our God-given rights (our freedoms) are trying to be taken away rather than being respected. Thank you.

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  3. I just need to say that my last psychiatrist saved my life.

    I would not be typing this if she had not called the ambulance.

    No one and I mean NO ONE will ever stop me choosing how I want to see my illness. No one and I mean NO ONE will influence my conclusions about why I have schizophrenia.

    But let me pretend that I have seen the trauma paradigm light and have converted as in conversion therapy.

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