May 27, 2020
Dainius Pūras is a medical doctor and human rights advocate. He is currently serving the final year of his term as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. He is also a professor at Vilnius University, Lithuania, and the director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, an NGO based in Vilnius.
Pūras has been a human rights activist for 30 years involved in national, regional, and global activities that promote human rights-based policies and services, with a focus on mental health, child health, disabilities, and the prevention of violence and coercion. He was a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child from 2007 to 2011.
From the time he was appointed to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2014, Pūras has pushed for a paradigm shift in mental health care. During his mandate, he has written several reports that emphasize the importance of the social determinants of health and criticize the dominance of the biomedical model and the medicalization of depression. While his work has occasionally been met with derision from some mainstream psychiatric institutions, he continues to bring attention to coercive practices and human rights violations and to call for greater investment in rights-based approaches to mental health care and suicide prevention.
In this interview, Pūras discusses his own journey as a psychiatrist, his decision to get involved in human rights work, his goals for his UN reports, and the future of rights-based mental health care.