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Mental Health Law, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, World Health Organization, Disability, Mental Health


The World Health Organization (WHO) has in the last decade identified mental health as a priority for global health promotion and international development, to be targeted through promulgation of evidence-based medical practices, health systems reform, and respect for human rights. Yet these overlapping strategies are marked by tensions as the historical primacy of expert-led initiatives is increasingly subject to challenge by new social movements – in particular, disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs). These tensions come into focus upon situating the WHO’s contributions to the analysis of global mental health in light of the negotiation and early stages of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), particularly as it applies to persons with mental disabilities. To clarify, I distinguish “mental” from “intellectual” disability (as does the CRPD) and use the former term interchangeably with “psychosocial” disability, a term favored within the disability community to denote mental health conditions without rooting these in individual pathology. The focus of my analysis is psychosocial or mental disability; however, at times the analysis has clear application also to intellectual disability or to forms of state action to which persons with intellectual disabilities may also be subject.