Challenges Implementing Disability Rights Treaty?

Posted on 17 May 2009. Filed under: Announcements, Call for Comments or Information, Human Rights, Networking Opportunities, Opinion, Psychiatric Disabilities, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Abdul-Jeff Maalik Makana, the Executive Director of MindFreedom Kenya, wants to learn more about the challenges that other countries experience in implementing the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Below is his appeal for information. Please respond directly to him at

Dear All,

Greetings from non sunny Nairobi day today!

We have a challenge here in Kenya advocating for the implementation of the UN CRPD. Are other states experiencing similar challenges? What are the challenges?

I recently on a media appearence to create awareness about the work of MindFreedom Kenya & advocating for the implementation of the UN CRPD… one caller to the show reinforced the general view that persons with psychosocial disabilities have no capacity at any time to make decision (Legal capacity) though the UN CRPD guarantees legal capacity(article 12) or even supported decision making.

To quote Daniel Hazen—Human Rights and Advocacy “cease the practice of exceptionalism when it comes to human rights” meaning we cannot downplay the CRPD which is a very important rallying point for our movement.

Mental Health (MH) policies cannot be written in a vacuum…. State parties and other stakeholders should get direction that adopting certain articles of the CRPD versus the CRPD in its entirety has far reaching consequences more so article 12 (right to legal capacity) a big part of the user/survivor movement advocacy.

Lastly, why was the term psychosocial disabled adopted in the UN CRPD versus the term mentally disabled or mentally ill? Here in Africa many don’t see mental illness as a disability? Can you please help me understand how to advocate better for psychosocial disabled term to be adopted and accepted locally.

What are your views:

I am doing a Survey on supporting signing/ratification and implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by state parties without reservations.

This obligation would require that the States both refrain from actions that undermine the principles and initiate efforts which would promote them. You can also e-mail your comments directly to

As a user, a survivor. mental health worker, or human rights activist in mental health do you support the position that the CRPD is non negotiable, and that the nature of this commitment obligates state parties to completely review MH policies and legislation which relied on flawed WHO MI Principles? *

A few sampling of responses collected regarding the above question:

This obligation would require that the States both refrain from actions that undermine the principles and initiate efforts which would promote them.(MH Policy, legislation’s, new MH laws, civic education, more access to mental services at the community level, empowering of persons with psychosocial disabilities to participate equally in society without being discriminated based on disabilities).

Absolutely I support it!! Recently there have been reports that they are opening “behavioral” units in nursing homes in New York State–a way to lock us up again quietly so there won’t be too many complaints. Fortunately we noticed and… Read More now there’s a lawsuit. Good thing so many of us “suffer” from hypervigelance!! Anyway, so good to see that we’re coming together internationally. We can and will find our power no matter how hard the system tried to hold us down.

I am not sure that I can ask for the UN treaty to become nationalized, but I do agree with many of the tenets. I think that I can see where some conflicts of interest might be involved. So better person by person, not this group or that. That is what I think….

With kind regards,

Abdul-Jeff Maalik Makana

Abdul Maalik bin Ali formerly,
Jeff Makana

Executive Director,
MindFreedom Kenya(MF-K)
Follow me on twitter@

Thank you to Abdul Maalik bin Ali for submitting this announcement for publication at We Can Do.

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REPORT: Violence Against Disabled Children

Posted on 8 March 2008. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Children, Cross-Disability, Human Rights, Reports, Resources, Violence | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

UNICEF has released a summary report entitled, “Violence Against Disabled Children” (PDF format 245 Kb), with the subtitle “UN Secretary Generals Report on Violence against Children, Thematic Group on Violence against Disabled Children, Findings and Recommendations.”

The first half of this report, released in July 2005, summarizes what is known about violence toward children with disabilities at home, in schools, in institutions, in the criminal justice system, within the broader community, and at work (in child labor situations). Children with disabilities are known to be at higher risk for abuse, partly because they may be perceived as “easy victims.” Also, abuse toward disabled children is less likely to be investigated or persecuted, which means abusers know it is easier to escape consequences even if the abuse is discovered.

Many children, with or without disabilities, may face adults who fail to listen or to believe them when they try to report abuse. But children with disabilities face additional barriers. As one example, some adults may mistakenly assume that a child with intellectual disabilities or psycho-social disabilities must surely be “confused,” or unable to tell right from wrong, or unable to make their own decisions about what is done to their bodies.

Disabled children may also be targeted for child murder, either because parents perceive them as bringing shame to the family or because adults may be convinced they will be “better off” dead than disabled. In countries where many men share the belief that sex with a virgin will “cleanse” them of HIV/AIDS, girls, boys, and adults with disabilities may be targeted for rape on the assumption that they do not have sex. Children with disabilities also may be forcibly sterilized, sometimes as early as the age of 8 or 9.

The report makes a series of 13 recommendations for families, communities, policy makers, governments, advocates, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) or Civil Society Organizations, United Nations agencies, and other stakeholders with an interest in preventing violence toward disabled children. These recommendations include, as a few examples: increasing public awareness; reforming legislation so that the laws can better protect children with disabilities; advocating change to improve inclusion of disabled people throughout society; improving reporting mechanisms so that people who become aware of abuse have a way to report it; closing down institutions and integrating disabled children into the community; but also improving government oversight of institutions for as long as they continue to exist.

The 33-page report can be downloaded in PDF format (245 Kb) at:

People interested in the topic of violence against children may also wish to read an article on violence and disabled children in the 2003 issue of the joint Rehabilitation International and UNICEF newsletter, One in Ten:

Also of possible interest:

A recent report, Promoting the Rights of Children with Disabilities could give ideas to advocates and families for how they can use international human rights laws to protect the rights of children with disabilities.

Learn about a report on human rights abuses of disabled children and adults in Serbia, including the use of violence.

Read a paper on Violence Against Blind and Visually Impaired Girls in Malawi

Those interested in abuse and human rights violations in institutional settings may also wish to read the following first-hand accounts written by the same author, Amanda Baggs. These are well worth reading. Some talk about the more obvious kinds of violence that most people are used to thinking of as “abuse.” Some talk about forms of psychological manipulation that are so subtle that outside observers might miss them. But Amanda Baggs makes powerful arguments for why “outposts in our head,” or the uses of power nevertheless can be at least as important for anyone who cares about the well-being of children (and adults) with disabilities. Click on any title below to see Amanda Bagg’s post:

Why It’s So Hard to Write Directly About My Life
Outposts in Our Heads: The Intangible Horrors of Institutions that Must Not Be Forgotten
The Meaning of Power
Extreme Measures, and Then Some

We Can Do learned about the UNICEF report on violence against disabled children from the database. provides a library of information, resources, and toolkits related to people with disabilities and to health issues, particularly in developing countries.

Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do (

Also at We Can Do: catch up with the news; explore resources, toolkits, or funding and fellowship opportunities that might be helpful for your organization; find research, reports, papers, or statistics; or look up conferences, events, call for papers, or education/training opportunities.

This blog post is copyrighted to We Can Do ( Currently, only two web sites have on-going permission to syndicate (re-post) We Can Do blog posts: and Other sites are most likely plagiarizing this post without permission.

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NEWS: The Law Has Been Instrument of Our Oppression, Says Disability Advocate

Posted on 13 February 2008. Filed under: Human Rights, News, Psychiatric Disabilities, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

People with psychosocial disabilities have been quick to embrace the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). One of them is David Stolper, a South African advocate for the human rights of people with psychosocial disabilities.

Stolper, says, “The whole world looks at our constitution in South Africa and sees it as the most progressive one for the rights of all people, but we in mental health have been totally marginalized.” Stolper, who has been institutionalized in both the United Kingdom and also in South Africa, terms himself a “psychiatric survivor.”

Of the CRPD, he says, “I think it gives us a legal framework and something on paper that will be binding that is a dramatic shift from what we have had before. There has always seemed to be some kind of barbaric tool to control us. The law has been an instrument of our oppression. The convention says that it is time that the government and people around us drop this notion that we cannot think for ourselves.”

We Can Do readers can read a full-length interview with David Stolper about his perspectives on the CRPD at the web site for the Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities:

The interview also was published in the newsletter Human Rights Africa, 2007, Issue 2 (PDF format, 1.8 Mb). Human Rights Africa focuses on issues relevant to human rights for persons with disabilities in Africa.

Past issues of Human Rights Africa are available in both English and French in both PDF and Word format at:

We Can Do learned of this article through the Disabled People International (DPI) newsletter.

Also at We Can Do: catch up with the news; explore resources, toolkits, or funding and fellowship opportunities that might be helpful for your organization; find research, reports, papers, or statistics; or look up conferences, events, call for papers, or education/training opportunities.

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NEWS: Human Rights Abuses of Disabled Children, Adults in Serbia

Posted on 17 November 2007. Filed under: Blind, Children, Cognitive Impairments, Cross-Disability, Deaf, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Human Rights, Mobility Impariments, Multiple Disabilities, News, Psychiatric Disabilities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |


Embargoed Until November 14th, 2007

Contact: Laurie Ahern – 202.361.1402
Eric Rosenthal – 202.361.9195


Belgrade, Serbia – November 14, 2007 – Following a four year investigation, Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) released its findings today in a report detailing the human rights abuses perpetrated against children and adults in Serbia with disabilities, forced to live out their lives in institutions. Torment not Treatment: Serbia’s Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities describes children and adults tied to beds or never allowed to leave their cribs – some for years at a time. In addition, filthy conditions, contagious diseases, lack of medical care, rehabilitation and judicial oversight renders placement in a Serbian institution life threatening for both children and adults. The children and adults had a range of disabilities including Downs Syndrome, deafness, visual impairment, autism, and mobility impairments.

“These are Serbia’s most vulnerable citizens. Thousands confined to institutions are subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and abuse. Children and adults tied down and restrained over a lifetime is dangerous and painful treatment tantamount to torture – clear violations of the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Attorney Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of MDRI and an expert on human rights law.

“We call on the government of Serbia to stop these abuses immediately and to respect the human rights of all people with disabilities,” concluded Rosenthal.

For more information visit, where you can download a copy of the full report in PDF format, videos, and photos. The video footage does not have captions available. As a deaf person, I found that if you read the executive summary of the report and look at some of the photos before viewing the video then most of the images in the video speak for themselves. I’m guessing that there is probably no audio description for blind people; as a sighted deaf person, I’m afraid I’m not in a position to judge how much sense the video will make without it. Readers who are deaf or blind–or who support their interests–may wish to contact MDRI to encourage them to make their video materials available with both captions and audio description.

MDRI is an international human rights and advocacy organization dedicated to the full participation in society of people with mental disabilities worldwide. We Can Do published an earlier press release from MDRI reporting on similar human rights abuses in Argentina; the Argentina report, entitled Ruined Lives, can still be downloaded from the front page of the MDRI web site (scroll down the page). More reports about human rights abuses of people with disabilities in Turkey, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, Kosovo, Russia, and Hungary can be downloaded in PDF format from

Most of the text of this blog post comes from the MDRI press release, which can be retrieved at

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UPCOMING Post-Conflict Rehabilitation Book

Posted on 9 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Call for Papers, Disaster Planning & Mitigation, Opportunities, Psychiatric Disabilities, Rehabilitation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I have now been informed that the editors for this book are NO LONGER ACCEPTING NEW SUBMISSIONS. This notice is left in place for informational purposes ONLY, and so that people can seek out the book after it is published.

WAS Recruiting chapter authors for a new book
Estimated Completion Date: August 2009
[Again, please note that the date for author applications has now passed and all desired authors have been selected.]

Book title: Post-Conflict Rehabilitation: Creating a Trauma Membrane for Individuals and Communities and Restructuring Lives after Trauma

WAS Recruiting for these chapters:

1. Survival stabilization: This chapter covers the dynamics of providing physical sustenance, medical assistance, and housing to individuals after a conflict situation.
2. Psychological stabilization and crisis intervention: This chapter contains short-term interventions that can be used in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, as well as interventions that are appropriate for several weeks following the crisis. Denial of trauma will be covered in this chapter.
3. Physical rehabilitation: This chapter outlines the basic principles of physical rehabilitation, and the current trends and techniques that are used in developed and developing countries.
4. Psychological rehabilitation for veterans: This chapter addresses acute, conflict-related mental health issues, such as combat stress reactions, grief reactions, and Acute Stress Disorder. Psychological services offered near the front line are explained.
5. Psychological rehabilitation for civilians: This chapter details acute, post-conflict mental health issues from the civilian side, which may include terrorization from military sources. Thus, grief reactions, Acute Stress Disorder, and other psychological reactions to acute stress will be discussed.
6. Trends in coping with trauma: This chapter will review the empirical literature published on coping with traumatic events. This includes gender-related differences in coping with trauma, and distinctions between veterans and civilians.
7. Social reconstruction and economic stabilization: Processes are discussed by which governments and NGOs formulate plans, rebuild infrastructures, and develop resources.
8. Political and social rehabilitation: This chapter focuses on how inter-group tensions are stabilized and healed after treaties are signed and the war or conflict stops (i.e., community-level interventions).

Erin Martz, Ph.D. (Editor), Assistant professor, 119D Patterson Hall, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152 USA

As of September 23, 2008, I have been informed that authors are no longer needed for this endeavor.

We Can Do received this announcement via the email distribution list for the Global Partnership for Disability and Development (<a href=”GPDD mailing list“>GPDD). However, neither We Can Do nor GPDD are associated with this publication endeavor. Although it is no longer possible for authors to offer their writing skills, people interested in the topic may wish to keep their eyes open for the release of this book after August 2009.

Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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NEWS: Human Rights Violations of Argentines with Psychosocial, Mental Disabilities

Posted on 25 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Cognitive Impairments, Human Rights, Latin America & Caribbean, Opinion, Psychiatric Disabilities, Violence | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


WASHINGTON, DC—September 25, 2007— Argentina is among countries with the most psychiatrists per capita in the world—yet people detained in the country’s public psychiatric institutions are subject to serious human rights violations. Ruined Lives, an investigative report released today by Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI)and the Argentine human rights organization Center for Legal and Social Studies(CELS), finds that 25,000 people are locked away in Argentina’s institutions, segregated from society, many for a lifetime and with no possibility of ever getting out.

Ruined Lives exposes widespread abuse and neglect in these institutions, including people burning to death in isolation cells, complete sensory deprivation in long-term isolation, forced sterilization and sexual and physical abuse. In one psychiatric penal ward in Buenos Aires, men were locked naked in tiny, barren isolation cells with no light or ventilation for months at a time. At another institution, four people died while locked in isolation cells. Toilets overflowed with excrement and floors were flooded with urine.

Investigators found a 16 year-old boy in a crib, his arms and legs tied to his body with strips of cloth, completely immobilized. Staff said he had been tied up since being admitted to the institution more than a year before.

“Argentina’s mental health system detains people on a massive scale without any legal protections,” said Eric Rosenthal, MDRI’s ExecutiveDirector. “The inhumane and degrading treatment we observed is banned by international human rights treaties and should not be tolerated in any society.”

MDRI is an international human rights and advocacy organization dedicated to the full participation in society of people with mental disabilities world wide. For more information, visit

CELS is an Argentine organization devoted to fostering and protecting human rights and strengthening the democratic system and the rule of law. For more information, visit

The report and photographs can be downloaded from the MDRI web site in either English or Spanish.

1156 15th St NW, Suite 1001, Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 296-0800, Fax: (202) 728-3053

This press release comes from Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI</a).

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NEWS: Researching Mental Health in Developing Countries

Posted on 15 October 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Announcements, News, Psychiatric Disabilities, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This press release is taken from the Global Forum for Health Research web site.

PRESS RELEASE Geneva, 10 October 2007– Mental and neurological disorders are responsible for 13% of the global burden of disease. In addition, more than half of the 10 leading risk factors that cause one third of premature deaths worldwide have behavioural determinants, such as unsafe sex, tobacco or alcohol consumption, etc. Despite this evidence, mental health is a neglected and an under researched area of public health, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, the Global Forum for Health Research is pleased to launch the following electronic publication:

Research capacity for mental health in low- and middle-income countries: Results of a mapping project

Pratap Sharan, Itzhak Levav, Sylvie Olifson, Andrés de Francisco and Shekhar Saxena (eds.) Geneva, World Health Organization and Global Forum for Health Research, 2007 (

Download full-text PDF (146 p.): or see

The printed publication will be launched at Forum 11, Beijing, People’s Republic of China, 29 October to 2 November 2007 (

This report provides an account of the current status of mental health research in 114 LMICs of Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The scale of the study makes it the first systematic attempt to confirm the pressing needs of improving research capacity in mental health. Thus, the report enables evidence-based decision-making in funding and priority setting in the area of mental health research in LMICs. It strongly requests all policy-makers, programme managers, and funders of research for health, at national and global levels, to place mental health high on their agendas.

A total of 4633 mental health researchers and 3829 decision-makers, university administrators and association workers working in the field of mental health were identified:
• Half of the countries mapped had only five or fewer mental health researchers.
• Fifty-seven per cent of the 114 LMICs were found to contribute fewer than five articles to the international mental health indexed literature for a 10-year period (1993–2003), while very few articles could be identified from non-indexed sources in almost 70% of the countries, suggesting a paucity of researchers and mental health research in many LMICs.
• Some countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, the Republic of Korea and South Africa contributed significantly to international mental health publications – a finding that attests to notable variations in mental health research production within as well as across regions.

The main reasons for this paucity of mental health research identified in the study are the many demands faced by clinicians and academics in a context characterized by poor funding, a lack of trained personnel, little infrastructural support, and a paucity of research networks, in institutions which mostly lacked a research culture.

The survey results showed broad agreement among researchers and other mental health related stakeholders, and across regions, regarding priorities for mental health research in LMICs. Epidemiological studies of burden and risk factors, health system research, and social science research were the highest ranked types of needed research. Depression/anxiety, substance use disorders, and psychoses were identified as the top three priority disorders, while prioritized population groups were children and adolescents, women, and persons exposed to violence/trauma. The most important criteria for prioritizing research were burden of disease, social justice, and availability of funds, although researchers and other stakeholders differed markedly regarding the importance of personal interest of researchers as a criterion for prioritizing research.

These findings highlight the need to review and strengthen the management of mental health research so that it meets the national needs of LMICs as well as contributes to the global fund of knowledge. Governments and other institutions in LMICs should devise mechanisms to allocate greater funds to research, capacity and infrastructure strengthening. Although some examples of research impacting policy and practice are available, in general there is little interface between research and policy. There is a need for organizations to bridge the gap between policy and research by sensitizing researchers about the usefulness of involving other stakeholders in their research and sensitizing stakeholders about the importance of good mental health research.

“This report highlights the weak research structures and the lack of connection between mental health decision-makers and researchers in LMICs. It gives nine key recommendations for the development of research for action.”
Professor Lars Jacobsson, Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of Psychiatry, Umea University, Sweden

Principal Investigators: Carla Gallo, Oye Gureje, Exaltacion E Lamberte, Jair de Jesus Mari, Guido Mazzotti (deceased), Vikram Patel, Leslie Swartz–ENDS


For additional information or interviews, contact Sylvie Olifson T +41 22 791 1667 or Shekhar Saxena T +41 22 791 3625

If you have been to We Can Do before then you may have noticed that this blog has a new appearance and structure. How do you like it? Do you find it easy (or hard) to find the information you’re looking for? Any other feedback on how to improve the We Can Do blog in general? Whether you’re a new-comer or repeat visitor, please share your thoughts in the comments area at the post where I describe We Can Do’s new look or email me at ashettle at patriot dot net.

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The WHO MIND Project: Psychosocial, Psychiatric Disabilities

Posted on 6 October 2007. Filed under: News, Psychiatric Disabilities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The World Health Organization (WHO) has unvieled a project meant to improve the access to, and quality of, treatments available for psychosocial (psychiatric) disabilities such as depression or schizophrenia and neurological disorders such as epilepsy in developing nations.

Psychosocial disabilities and neurological disorders can make it harder for people living in poverty to earn a living and create better futures for themselves and their families.  In addition to the challenges presented by their differences, people with psychosocial or neurological disabilities must also face stigma, discrimination, and human rights violations.   The new WHO Mental Health Improvements for Nations Development (MIND) project is meant to help people overcome these barriers so that people with psychiatric and neurological disabilities can participate more fully in society.  The new web site is at:

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