October 10 is World Mental Health Day 2023. This year’s theme is “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right.”
On the podcast today we visit with Anna Gray, executive director and co-founder of Prosumers International, and Janet Paleo, co-founder of Prosumers International. Both women are also former board members of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), the founding organization of World Mental Health Day (WMHD). They join us to discuss their work with Prosumers International in relation to this year’s theme.
Hope and Recovery
Janet’s personal journey to mental health recovery and Anna’s experience as her mentor, inspired the two women to found Prosumers International (Prosumers) in 2002. Rooted in the belief that purposeful recovery is possible, the organization aims to create an empowering environment where people with mental health challenges can achieve recovery on their own terms.
“Prosumers is a social impact group with a focus on helping people find their voice and find hope,” says Janet. “Finding my voice was such an important step in my own recovery. I wanted to teach other people that no matter what your challenges are, when you can find hope, you can move toward recovery.”
Individuals with lived experience of both mental health challenges and successful recovery guide the group. Through peer support, Prosumers builds a community of shared understanding, support, and advocacy for people still in recovery. And by placing a high value on personal autonomy, peer support also works to level the power differential traditionally seen between physician and patient in clinical settings.
Anna describes peer supporters as actively involved in ensuring that people given psychiatric diagnoses are seen as full human beings with the full range of human rights.
In this way and many others, Prosumers’ work reflects their understanding of mental health as a universal human right.
Mental Health as a Universal Human Right
“This year’s theme recognizes that the right to mental health goes beyond just the right to treatment,” says Anna. “Treatment alone does not bring us to recovery. Access to a full life does.”
Indeed, the Prosumer’s approach to recovery recognizes that access to a full life includes access to all the things that impact our mental well-being, such as healthy food, safe housing, and opportunities for education. It also includes the right to autonomy and freedom, in keeping with the United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights’ determination that coercing individuals to receive mental health treatment is an outdated and unsuccessful approach.
“We want to help people find their voice and speak up for themselves,” says Janet. “Individuals have the right to choose treatment that honors their dignity, personhood, and lived experience.”
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