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Mental health is a human rights issue

Commission Commission – General

10 October 2005

Mental health is a human rights issue

"Mental health is not just a social issue - it's a human rights issue," Human Rights Commissioner and Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Sev Ozdowski, said on the launch of World Mental Health Day (10 October) and Mental Health Week 2005 (9-15 October).

Dr Ozdowski said that mental health care is an enormous social issue - one in five Australians are likely to suffer a mental illness at some point in their lives - which means statistically that almost every family in Australia will need to deal with mental illness at one time or another.

"But it's also a human rights issue. Australia is a party to several international human rights treaties, two of which explicitly recognise the right of everyone (especially children and youth) to the highest attainable standard of mental health care," said Commissioner Ozdowski.

"Yet despite the fact that mental disorders are the largest single component of Australia's disease burden, mental health care is still not a priority. It certainly doesn't get anywhere near the attention that physical health care does."

World Mental Health Day aims to expand awareness and knowledge of mental health and emphasise the importance of good mental and physical health throughout life - this year's theme is 'Mental and physical health across the life span'.

"We know that mental health is now recognised as an essential and inseparable part of general health and wellbeing. The importance of the relationship between mental and physical health at all stages of life is vital and has important medical, social and economic benefits," the Commissioner said.

Commissioner Ozdowski will join the Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, the Hon. Christopher Pyne, in officially launching World Mental Health Day at Reconciliation Place in Canberra on 10 October.

"I encourage people to take part in some of the huge variety of events being organised by individuals and organisations across the nation as part of Mental Health Week 2005 to help expand awareness and support of mental health and related issues," Dr Ozdowski said.

Media contact: Paul Oliver (02) 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347

updated 25 January 2005.