Comments by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on the occasion of the World Mental Health Day
Since 1992, on October 10 we celebrate the day of mental healthcare, a peculiar area of public health. In Western Europe and North America, the evolution of the concept of the citizens’ physical and mental well-being, i.e., mental hygiene dates back to the early 1900s. Nowadays, this concept means neither the absence of disease, nor a special method of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic care, but mental and social well-being, a state of health instrumental in everyday life and in leading a successful lifestyle, the physical and mental endurance of individuals and communities, as well as the development of the skills necessary therefor. Consequently, mental healthcare has an impact on the whole of society; in Hungary, its institutional framework, providing both care and prevention, may be accessed through the network of Health Promotion Offices, which may bring about a breakthrough, in particular, in mapping the social and healthcare issues of those living in small settlements.
Several sociological studies conducted in Hungary have shown that the state of physical and mental health of those groups of society that live in difficult life situations is far worse than that of those who live under better conditions, which constitutes a serious problem, in particular, for groups that are vulnerable due to their inadequate capacity to assert their own interests. In accordance with the letter and the spirit of the act specifying the frameworks of his activities, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights pays special attention to protecting the rights of the particularly vulnerable groups.
In his reports on domestic psychiatric care, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights László Székely, just as his predecessors, has been emphasizing that persons who are ill and in need of medical care are already in vulnerable and, in some cases, inferior situation vis-à-vis the healthcare institutions – their rights are particularly infringeable. Therefore, the State is expected not only to maintain and operate the institutional framework of healthcare but also, as its constitutional obligation, to protect the fundamental rights of those in need of healthcare. The Ombudsman has called attention, on several occasions, to the fact that these citizens, due to their state of health, are less capable of exercising their rights independently – it is, therefore, opportune to support them through implementing the principle of equal access when organizing the provision of healthcare services, including the establishment of a therapeutic network for the preservation of mental health.