Mexico steps towards reform in mental health law

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The Mexican government has taken steps towards amending its health law to establish a community-based mental health system.  Disability Rights International’s (DRI’s) report of human rights violations in 2010 focused international attention on the problems of Mexico’s mental health institutions and stirred Mexico’s government to respond.

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Although Mexico had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006,  the DRI report cited numerous violations of articles included in the convention.

The 2010 DRI report revealed inhuman and degrading conditions including lack of care, physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and conditions of torture that violates the United Nations Convention against Torture.  Several patients were found tied down in the same spot that DRI had found them in 2000.

Living conditions at institutions were dire, floors are covered with urine and feces, and patients are clothed in ragged clothes.  The release of the report invoked an international response to the situation.

The reaction stirred Mexico’s government to pass a mental health law in December of the same year requiring the creation of mental health community services. However, the law was flawed and did not  address all of the problems at mental health institutions.

In March of 2012, the Inter-American Commission on Human Right held hearings concerning continuing violations. More international pressure for reform followed and Mexico finally moved again to amend its health law to do a better job at creating a community mental health system.

According to Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of Disability Rights International, “This is a great step forward by Mexico.  Under international law, all people with disabilities have a right to live in the community– and not in institutions.”