A trainee human rights lawyer is launching an innovative new campaign to have ‘sound mental health’ recognised as a basic human right.
Mental health campaigner Mohammed Sbahuddin Rafiuddin, 32, from Watford, Hertfordshire, is drawing on a decade of his own mental health struggles to inspire global change so that everyone has the right to be protected from known harms to mental health and to access quality and affordable care.
‘Mohammed’s Mental Health Campaign‘ launches today (World Mental Health Day) which, for 2023, is inviting people to come together under the theme ‘Mental Health is a universal human right.’
The campaign has a mission to have sound mental health enshrined as an Article in the Human Rights Act in the same way as a right to privacy or right to a fair trial is.
It has a three-step mental health mission: empowerment, improved care, education and awareness.
He hopes this will lead to a long-term five-point mental health action plan which includes: the right to sound mental health for all, increased funding for mental health research, enhanced funding for mental health services, more public health campaigns to provide awareness of mental health illnesses and symptoms, and the reduction of stigma in all communities.
“Together, we can rewrite the narrative surrounding mental health and ensure that no one is left behind in their battle for a life of sound mental health.”
According to the World Health Organization’s 2019 data, 1 in every 8 people, or a staggering 970 million people globally, live with a mental disorder, with anxiety and depression being the most prevalent.
Mohammed, who is specialising in human rights law, with a focus on mental health law, is finally set to qualify as a lawyer next spring having battled mental health issues for a decade.
“My own experience has left me stronger and I’m determined to fight for a future where society is free from the confines of judgment and stigma associated with mental illness.
“I want every human – regardless of their background – to have the opportunity to lead a mentally healthy and fulfilling life and feel good about doing so.”
As he was nearing the end of his law degree, he began to suffer from depression and anxiety, which spiralled into psychosis. The condition took over his life, keeping him a prisoner in his own home for 10 years, seven of those bedbound due to its severity.
In the early stages of his struggle, after finally plucking up the courage to seek help, Mohammed says his mental health crisis was dismissed by a GP as ‘just stress’.
“I battled for a diagnosis and saw seven different therapists, spent my 30th birthday in a mental health ward and was taking four different prescription medications a day just to stay alive.”
Mohammed has, with the help of extensive therapy, medication, and his own self-belief, overcome his mental illness and is living a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life and has worked with charities including Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, and Humanity First, and for the NHS as an Expert by Experience.
He is now determined to help others with this new campaign which he hopes will challenge stigma, save lives, and influence politicians to allocate more funding to mental health services.
“My therapist once said to me, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if people treated their mental illness the same way they would treat an illness of their eyes, or ears, or leg?’
“While a lot has changed in the past decade, we’re still struggling to treat our mental health the same as other physical conditions, and the lack of funding for mental health research and mental health services is a huge part of that.”
Dr G. Borghini, a Consultant Psychiatrist from NHS Hertfordshire, who worked with Mohammed for a number of years, said:
“Mohammed’s story is truly inspirational, and he is an extremely resilient and determined individual. He has a talent and passion to help others particularly those that are suffering from mental illness like he did.
“I applaud him for using his own personal experience in facing and overcoming severe mental illness after struggling for over 10 years to shine a much-needed light on mental health. I fully support Mohammed’s Mental Health Campaign and hope we can break the stigma around Mental Health.”
Peter Taylor, Elected Mayor of Watford, said:
“Mohammed’s story of facing and overcoming his 10-year battle with mental illness is truly remarkable and inspirational. I am proud to be his Local Mayor and I fully support Mohammed’s Mental Health Campaign for breaking the stigma around Mental Health.”
An integral part of Mohammed’s mission is to provide awareness and education, particularly in the Asian, African, and Ethnic Minority communities where a stigma around mental health and mental illness still exists.
“Within the Asian community, mental illness is not spoken about. When I was first suffering from my illnesses, I didn’t know a single person in my community who would publicly speak about mental health, and that hasn’t really changed a great deal.”