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The project titled “Action Platform for the Rights in Mental Health” aimed to intervene in a dynamic manner to address the systemic lack of awareness and information of people with mental health problems on their rights which are often associated to stigma and the barriers in accessing legal services and representation.

The project combined the establishment of the first Advocacy Office in the country with community awareness activities and targeted capacity building for professionals involved with the rights of people with mental health problems (lawyers, judges, mental health professionals, police). The ultimate aim of the Advocacy office is to support the shift from advocacy to self-advocacy, from “clinical recovery” to social recovery and self- determination.
The Advocacy Office offers individualized support jointly by lawyers and clinicians. The main services include information, consultation, guidance and referral to other services and institutional bodies to users of mental health services. It works closely with representative users’ and families’ associations, trying to empower people to claim their rights.

The most common cases recorded concern issues of legal capacity, the right to manage one’s own assets, access to social security benefits and entitlements, involuntary admissions, discrimination, bullying or violence against people with severe mental health problems. In practice, all issues derive from a chronic neglect and abuse of the interests and the needs of people with mental health problems.

The biggest challenges that the Advocacy office has identified concern the lack of an adequate network of health and support services, the lack of continuity in care, the lack of cooperation between services and institutional bodies involved with the rights of people with mental health problems, the lack of data and evidence based interventions and the complete lack of a rights based approach in mental health services. To overcome the fragmentation of the system effort is made to invest in a systematic collaboration with existing services and institutional bodies. However, the fact that the role of this advocacy office is not officially statutory/institutionalized limits the potential of interventions.

Through this pilot project our vision is to record and elaborate the data and information received and conclude to a comprehensive and evidence based proposal for the establishment of advocacy offices as an institution, in order to mainstream the human rights perspective in mental health.

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