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Mad in America: Rethinking Mental Health

The Mad in America podcast, hosted by James Moore, examines mental health with a critical eye by speaking with psychologists, psychiatrists and people with lived experience.

When you hear such conversations, you realise that much of what is believed to be settled in mental health is actually up for debate. Is mental health a matter of faulty biology or is there more to it? Are the treatments used in psychiatry helpful or harmful in the long term? Are psychiatric diagnoses reliable? With the help of our guests, we examine these questions and so much more. 

This podcast is part of Mad in America’s mission to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care and mental health. We believe that the current drug-based paradigm of care has failed our society and that scientific research, as well as the lived experience of those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, calls for profound change. 

On the podcast over the coming weeks, we will have interviews with experts and those with lived experience of the psychiatric system. Thank you for joining us as we discuss the many issues around rethinking mental health around the world.

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Jun 12, 2021

Michelle Funk is the Unit Head of the Policy, Law, and Human Rights at the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at the World Health Organization. She has created and leads the WHO Quality Rights Initiative that aims to assess and improve human rights standards in existing services and advance the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

In this interview, we discuss the launch of the new “Guidance on Community Mental Health Services: Promoting Person-Centred and Rights-Based Approaches.” The document is grounded on the principles of recovery and rights-based approaches. It presents successful examples of best practices in mental health service provision respecting dignity, moving to zero coercion, and eliminating neglect and abuse. Among the best practices showcased in the document are Open Dialogue as practiced in Tornio, Finland, Soteria Berne in Switzerland, Afiya House in Western Massachusetts, Basal Exposure Therapy in Norway, and Hearing Voices Support Groups.

The Guidance builds on the momentum created by the critical voice of Dainius Pūras, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. Puras criticized the dominance of the biomedical model in the Mental Health field and highlighted the harms associated with ignoring the social determinants of health that impact a person’s mental health, such as violence, poverty, lack of proper nutrition, housing instability, lack of universal health coverage, discrimination and others.

In our conversation, Michelle Funk described the process of engaging stakeholders and persons with lived experience throughout the design and development of the document, the challenges of ensuring geographical representation given the global inequalities, and the hopes for the future.