Can the arts help us understand and communicate mental health or ill health?


We stumbled on the great short film from @TheLancetPsychlooking at whether the Arts can help understand and communicate mental health…

WHO QualityRights Toolkit

This is useful resource when approaching service development with a human rights underpinning.

The WHO QualityRights Toolkit Assessing and improving quality and human rights in mental health and social care facilities was published in 2012 and can be downloaded at

(A brief four page flyer outlining the toolkit can be found at

This Toolkit takes a human rights and quality improvement approach to provide a framework for improving mental health and social care facilities and is written in a way that can support this in low, middle and higher income settings and as such acknowledges the needs for improvement in all these contexts.
The toolkit covers five human rights themes:

1. The right to an adequate standard of living and social protection
2. The right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
3. The right to exercise legal capacity and to personal liberty and the security of person
4. The right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment and from exploitation, violence and abuse
5. The right to live independently and be included in the community


Transformation that dignifies – a story of change in Sri Lanka

“Being a mental patient is no reason to be ostracised. You can get the medication you need these days and you can even become financially independent. We are normal now and can do anything you can do.

Viviene Perry, a journalist working for The Guardian interviews Sumina, a Sri Lankan diagnosed with schizophrenia, Dr Michelle Funk the WHO mhGAP programme coordinator, and Ananda Galappatti a mental health practitioner in Sri Lanka.

The interview can be listened to at or the transcript read at .

The transformation in services described involved imagining and developing services that were overwhelmed by the effects of the tsunami natural disaster of 2004. Aid money and resources arrived, and responding well and in a way that left a legacy has been important.

Whilst the interview isn’t specifically about dignity, the themes of discrimination and mental health and dignity are never far away in the conversations. Bringing together a patient and family perspective alongside a global health view and the description of a transforming mental health service is an illustration of the importance of combining good education, and the human rights based approach to support system-wide transformation that transforms lives of those needing care.


A plea for dignity and the right to be

“Derogatory words are used to describe us, such as mentally disturbed, having unsound mind, idiots, lunatics, imbeciles, mad people, demoniacs and many other hurtful labels. These words and the beliefs from which they derive devalue us and form the basis of discrimination and the loss of our inherent dignity.

“… we are people first, we have potential, abilities, talents, gifts, skills and each of us can make a great contribution to the world. We in the past, the present and in the future have, do and will made great contributions if barriers are removed, we are all different, unique … we need all people to embrace this diversity and allow us the liberty to be ourselves.”

Mrs Robinah Alambuya, President, Pan African Network of People with Psychosocial Disabilities, Uganda Giving. Speaking at the launch of the WHO QualityRights Toolkit

Mrs Robinah Alambuya’s presentation at the launch of WHO QualityRights Toolkit can been seen and listened to in full at (12mins)

Dignity in mental health care – a change of heart

In this edition of Developing Mental Health – themed ‘Dignity in Mental Health Care’ in line with the 2015 World Mental Health Day – it is worth considering that dignity afforded to self and others seems to be health-giving across all determinants and definitions of health.

A common approach when trying to transform care systems with dignity in mind is to create a set of rules and that can promote dignity. These may manifest themselves as policies, training or legal frameworks. Certainly there is a role for this in challenging and transforming ingrained patterns of working, organisational and societal norms and protecting those made more vulnerable by the actions of others. There is, though, a deeper work to do.

Moral guidance about extending value and worth beyond ‘our own’ has existed for centuries in all the major ‘wisdom teachings’.

So why does lack of dignity so often remain an issue in our health and social care systems?

Power, inequality and fear play a role, so perhaps one of the reasons is that true change happens only when attitudes are transformed. Such change considers self and others as worthy of honour or respect and this requires a change at a deeper level, at belief, at heart level.

Change comes from an open-hearted and open-minded way, rather than a rule-bound way, and from that flows authentic transformation that transcends labouring from the rule book and dignifies both those receiving and offering care.

So whilst acknowledging the place of the policies, training and legal frameworks that support a rights-based approach to dignity in mental health care, let us also reconnect with that older deeper wisdom. A wisdom that pre-dates these ‘enlightened times’ – examine ourselves and dare to have a change of heart.

In the realm of health and social care ‘dignity restored’ is probably most required in mental health. and that requires a change of heart. There is much for us to do, but if we do this, there will be much in others and ourselves that will be renewed and restored.

(This edition of Developing Mental Health will be released in daily instalments from Monday, with a compiled edition the following Monday)


Psychological first aid

“Psychological first aid, rather than psychological debriefing, should be offered to people in distress after being recently exposed to a traumatic event”

To what extent do you agree with this statement? Do you know what psychological first aid is?

The next edition of Developing Mental Health e-journal will focus on psychological first aid. Don’t miss this practical hands on journal with contributions from mental health practitioners around the world…

Sign up today to receive your free copy direct to your inbox…


Our first edition hits the internet this week…

Healthcare professionals from as far apart as Albania, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sweden and the USA have already signed up for our new publication Developing Mental Health.

DMH is produced bi-monthly and will feature an articles or articles on a particular area of interest along with useful bite-size tools or literature reviews. This first edition features an interview with Professor Andrew Sims former editor of the DMH journal in its previous reincarnation.

In Bite Size this week a simple tool for helping patients deal with crisis – no training required and we highlight the World Health Organisations Global Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020.

The team here at DMH sincerely hope to be able to contribute in some small way to goals of the plan which are to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and the focus on community based solutions, prevention and promotion of good mental health outlined in the Mental health Action Plan.

You can read the first edition online or sign up to receive future editions directly to your in box