Why It’s Vital to Improve Experiences for Mental Health Patients


Both our mental and physical health are crucial issues surrounding our human rights.

Not only is there a right to health, the very basis of our human rights is equality and a lack of discrimination, something which is also reinforced by Equality Act 2010.

Improving care for mental health is a vital part of this and, in fact, requires only one focus. The focus of all health care services needs to be centred on the individual, with patient-focused care at the heart of treatment, no matter what the issue. This is especially true when providing mental health care.

But how do we make sure this happens, while putting human rights at the heart of health care?

A Respectful Relationship With Choice

Listening to patients needs and choices is essential. Image Credit: Pexels

Respect and autonomy in health care is something we’ve written about before at RightsInfo, in relation to midwifery, but the same applies to mental health. Respect, honesty and a fundamental belief in a right to choice are all vital parts of human rights centred care and are a core part of improving services. Supportive, empathetic staff who are not judgmental also build trust between the staff and the individual receiving care.

In practice, creating a culture of respect means a number of things. One of the primary ways to produce a feeling of respect is to give patients the opportunity to participate in their treatment as much as possible. This means allowing people to make decisions and manage their treatment as much as possible.

At the heart of this is making sure patients and their families can make informed choices. Trained medical professionals should be there to aid people and ensure a positive experience and develop a relationship between hospital staff and patients.

This includes:

  • Clearly explaining procedures, the diagnosis and all aspects of treatment to patients in a way they can understand
  • Giving the person written information about treatment and services in a language they can understand and in an appropriate format
  • Making sure patients are aware of relevant information on support groups and helpful organisations

Confidentiality and Privacy

Image Credit: Dayne Topkin / Unsplash

Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention, which was brought into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998, enshrines our right to privacy.

It reflects the legal duty of confidentiality that patient information should only be disclosed with that patient’s consent. Once again, this is something that has tangible implications for how we care for people.

In practice, this means making sure individuals are treated with confidentiality and with privacy. Confidentially law and best practice needs to be explained to all of the people involved, especially as those accessing mental health services frequently fear discrimination and social stigma.

It goes without saying that staff should also respect cultural and religious differences, as well as not discriminate on grounds such as sexual orientation or gender.

A Cohesive System Across Health care

Image Credit: Tim Bish / Unsplash

From birth to old age, health care is vital for all of us at different points in our lives. Mental health is no less important than physical well-being, however, some people may not even realise they could benefit from treatment.

For this reason, all staff should be trained and on the lookout for mental health issues, regardless of what problem they have come to the GP, clinic or hospital about. During a routine examination, health professionals should ask questions which might reveal underlying mental health problems, as well as try to get to know the whole person in front of them. Making mental health part of regular health care would also help to reduce the stigma around the issue.

Getting patient mental health care right makes all the difference to a person’s quality of life. Simple things such as being respectful and letting patients make their own decisions about treatment can go a long way to help remove the stigma around mental health.

If you need support surrounding mental health, you can find resources and advice on the Mind website. This piece is an opinion post, and the views reflected do not neccessarily reflect those of RightsInfo. 

About the author: Mike Jones is a mental health activist. He spent the last few years debunking the myths, speaking about mental health policies and trying to improve the health system. Schizophrenia is one of the mental conditions that he wants to shed light upon. This is the reason why he created www.schizlife.com. He hopes that he’ll see the day when mental health isn’t a taboo subject anymore. 

Featured Image: Tirachard Kumtanom / Pexels