The head of the UN’s World Health Organization’s mental health department from 1999 to 2010 was psychiatrist Dr. Benedetto Saraceno in Geneva, Switzerland. In that position, Dr. Saraceno issued a statement about WHO’s work with MindFreedom International and MFI executive director David W. Oaks. Dr. Saraceno’s support has continued in his next position as chair of the Global Initiative on Psychiatry (GIP).

Benedetto Saraceno, MD; Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization

26 November 2008

I believe MindFreedom is doing remarkable work nationally and internationally to promote the protection of human rights in mental health.

In my experience, MindFreedom has been a fair, transparent interlocutor.

WHO has different views from MindFreedom in some areas, such as the definition of mental disorders or mental disability, or the assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of psychotropic medicines, but WHO also shares many common views with MindFreedom concerning the right of choice about treatment and, above all, the need of addressing the global emergency about the violation of human rights. 

On several occasions, MindFreedom’s Director David Oaks has expressed the same concerns as WHO and I think it is possible to build up a fair collaboration on those issues on which we agree, more than having no collaboration based on issues on which we disagree. I think the global debate about human rights and mental health needs the contribution of people like David Oaks.

Benedetto Saraceno, MD, Director
Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
World Health Organization
Geneva, Switzerland

Update: In 2010 Dr. Saraceno became Chair of the Global Initiatives on Psychiatry (GIP).

Dr. Saraceno’s support has continued.

On 22 May 2010, Dr. Saraceno stated, “David Oaks is one of the most prominent and effective advocate and activist of human rights of people with mental disabilities. His work is internationally acknowledged…”

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