Human Rights and Psychosocial Disability

Throughout the world, people with mental disabilities, elders with dementia, and people of all ages who suffer from psychological illness, from depression to schizophrenia, can be subjected to discrimination. They are often locked away in substandard facilities where degrading conditions include pervasive inactivity, filthy spaces, and the use of physical restraints, including confinement and cages. Psychiatric patients can be denied adequate privacy, medical and dental care, food, water, clothing, blankets, and heat, and rehabilitation and reintegration into society are rarely the goals of their treatment. Medications are chronically overused and misused, and there is almost a complete failure to provide informed consent for treatment and experimentation. The chronic shortage of resources includes a serious lack of trained staff, and there are few avenues of complaint for violations against one of the most vulnerable and marginalized segments of society.

The defender of the lesson “Human Rights and Psychosocial Disability,” Gábor Gombos of Hungary, knows these conditions all too well. The lesson uses circle and experiential techniques to put students in the shoes, stories, and emotional state of a person with a psychosocial disability. Later, they reanalyze well-known works, such as “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” to consider the relationship between culture, society, preconceived notions, and the treatment of those with psychosocial disabilities. Students apply a critical real-world lens to intellectual health facilities in their state/region and gather information that will help them become mental health advocates in their schools and communities.

Gábor Gombos is the co-founder of the Hungarian Mental Health Interest Forum. Fueled by personal experience, Gombos is devoted to monitoring and protecting the rights and humanity of psychiatric patients.

Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, this lesson plan fits into either virtual or in-person classrooms, with opportunities for discussion and collaboration on Zoom or with classmates. This lesson will be an excellent complement to Discovery Education resources, including an interview with Gábor Gombos and information about mental health advocacy around the world.