Legal Advocacy in Mental Health - a Concept Note

The adoption and recently the entry into force of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have generated unprecedented interest in legal advocacy in mental health. What has been a professional interest of a marginally few will and should become a public concern if we want CRPD to be more than a failed promise.

But what does legal advocacy mean? And what does it mean in the field of mental health? These are hitherto unanswered questions.

Advocates can also benefit from the old Hippocratic maxima: Cause no harm. The likelihood of causing unintended harm is non-negligible if conscoius reflection on the basic questions is missing.

That is why Amita Dhanda and I developed a concept note and have started elaborating it. Here comes the concept note.

Legal Advocacy : Concept Paper
Questions arising in Legal Advocacy
· What is meant by Advocacy?
· What is the purpose of Advocacy?
· Where do we situate the user – survivor
· The prioritization between stakeholders – psychiatrists, caregivers.
What is meant by Legal Advocacy?
- Filing test cases
- Client centered Legal Advocacy
- What should dictate the filing: the possibility of winning or the needs of the client.
- The travails of varied opinions between u/s groups in the process of consultation for law reform
- How should the varied opinions of different groups be addressed in law reform exercises?
- At present the differences are being handled on a cats& monkey strategy , necessary to ask how should negotiation be undertaken and resolution obtained?
- How to ensure that the consultation of stakeholders is a real and not a symbolic one?
What to do with litigation outcome?
- You may never get the perfect result – do only a press release but ignore the counter position
- What should be the principles?
What else beside litigation should fall under legal advocacy?
How to reach people to convince them that they have rights but those rights to be real require assertion. So what innovative means and methods should be employed to reach the concerned people?
This of course also raises the question as to who are the concerned people? Is only a person living with MI a concerned person? Or should this information be disseminated to society at large as in effect everyone is a concerned person?
Destigmatization through legal advocacy
One body of opinion that litigation and advocacy should be grounded in present law? If that line taken then what do you do about the entire body of legal rulings/ principles/ precedents which have been arrived at by a prejudicial understanding of Persons living with Mental Illness.
Important to appreciate that legal advocacy in mental health is not a choice. Cannot begin from the social end of the discrimination as the challenge to social discrimination can be rendered null at any point by legal discrimination. In the wake of this reality that the above stated questions have to be addressed.

No comments: