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Byberry Declaration for Human Rights of Persons with Mental Health Conditions

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For half a millennium, individuals with mental health conditions were warehoused in institutions in an unbroken line that stretches from Bedlam (the infamous Bethlem Royal Hospital in London) to Byberry (the name by which the notorious Philadelphia State Hospital was known).

 In June 2015, marking the 25th anniversary of the closure of Byberry, we gather to declare and affirm the following:

Byberry Declaration for Human Rights of Persons with Mental Health Conditions

 WHEREAS it is the fundamental right of all individuals to live in dignity, free from trauma, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, and neglect;

 WHEREAS, historically, individuals were warehoused in institutions and experienced appalling treatment;

 WHEREAS persons diagnosed with mental health conditions still face isolation, censure, and discrimination in employment, healthcare, and housing;

 RECOGNIZING that individuals with lived experience of a mental health condition have been far more likely than the general population to be exposed to human rights violations, and that these violations result in trauma, prejudice, neglect and discrimination;

 RECALLING that the life expectancy of persons living with mental health conditions is reduced by 25 years on average due to largely preventable causes;

 RECALLING the United Nations’ Principles on the Protection of People with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care (G.A. Res 46/119) and the right to treatment in the least restrictive setting possible in accordance with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C.;

 RECOGNIZING the World Health Organization’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, this calls for “equality of esteem” between behavioral health and physical health and efforts of nations to ensure parity of treatment for citizens;

 WE AFFIRM, our dedication to protect the human rights of individuals with mental health conditions within our communities. Thus, the undersigned, affirm that people with mental health conditions and our allies are entitled to:

  • Our right to high-quality comprehensive, quality and culturally appropriate community behavioral health treatment and services of our choice regardless of our financial resources.
  • Our right to be treated with dignity, respect and to valued as the authority regarding our treatment.
  • Our right to choice in treatment, recovery services and wellness tools.
  • Our right to refuse treatment.
  • Our right to provide fully informed consent, which includes access to comprehensive information concerning potential risks and benefits of a proposed intervention.
  • Our right to explore alternative options to any proposed intervention.
  • Our right to meaningful employment that guarantees reasonable accommodations without discrimination on the basis of mental health status.
  • Our right to pursue an education, with culturally appropriate support services provided as requested.
  • Our right to safe and affordable housing free of discrimination.



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