Third Jean-Jacques Gautier Symposium on monitoring psychiatric institutions
On 6 and 7 September 2016, the APT held in Geneva its third Jean-Jacques Gautier NPM Symposium on the issue of monitoring psychiatric institutions.
The event gathered representatives of 15 National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) from all regions of the world, other monitoring bodies and international experts on disability rights. Practitioners from different fields were represented, including psychiatrists, medical doctors, psychologists, lawyers and social workers.
The multidisciplinary approach of the discussions allowed for a rich and constructive exchange of views. The perspective of service users in particular was crucial in pushing the reflection further and in questioning certain assumptions on the issues discussed.
The Symposium addressed existing standards applicable to involuntary commitment and treatment in psychiatric facilities and situations that can lead to torture and other ill-treatment. The participants agreed that free and informed consent to placement and treatment must always be sought and the person’s right to legal capacity guaranteed.
As part of the paradigm shift represented by the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which provides that “the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty”, one participant emphasised that “we must presume capacity”. This means, in practice, that we must presume that each person, no matter his or her (perceived or actual) disability, has the capacity to make his or her own decisions.
NPMs and other monitoring bodies have an important role to play in raising awareness about the reality in many of these institutions, a reality that often remains overlooked. It was made clear that their preventive mandate goes beyond conducting regular visits and verifying material conditions. It also includes addressing the systemic causes of certain practices, such as long-term institutionalisation. To bring about concrete change, NPMs ought to advise states in the adoption of policies and laws related to mental health, to ensure that they are fully compliant with the human rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities.
An outcome report from the Symposium will be available later this year.