Mental Health, Disability Rights, and Equal Access to Employment

Global challenges in light of the Sustainable Development Goals

Authored by: Aart Hendriks

The Routledge Handbook of International Development, Mental Health and Wellbeing

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367027735
eBook ISBN: 9780429397844
Adobe ISBN:


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The relationship between medicine and disability rights is everything but unproblematic. 1 This particularly holds true with respect to persons with mental illness and persons with mental disabilities (henceforth, persons with mental health disabilities). Traditionally, they are assumed (wrongly) to be unable to participate as equals in society, particularly in the labour market. In fact, their legal capacity is regularly taken away arbitrarily, leading to a high degree of dependency and vulnerability. 2 These prejudices and practices affect persons with mental health disabilities even more in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs); countries that cannot provide basic facilities in various aspects of life. In such countries, people with mental health disabilities often have no access to evidence-based health care and may, for a number of reasons, experience even more exclusion and physical and social violence than in other parts in the world. 3 People with mental health disabilities often experience additional hardships in LMICs—not merely economic poverty, but regular and severe physical, emotional and psychological abuse, often by their own families. 4 These practices most certainly have a negative impact on their overall health and wellbeing. 5 Unfortunately, mental health legislation, often aimed at protecting society against persons with mental health disabilities rather than the opposite, may contribute to the segregation of people with mental health disabilities from others in society. 6

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