A short introduction of Mental Health Interest Forum

Mental Health Interest Forum (PÉF), a non-profit federation was founded in 1999. It is a unique organization in that it functions on the basis of users’ majority, i.e. among the majority of board members are present or ex- users of psychiatry. Only some such user-controlled organizations can be found worldwide.

The board includes also welfare professionals and family members. Permanent experts are employed as well, e.g. all forensic psychiatrists, addictologists, community psychiatry experts, informations specialists, drug addiction and disability experts, human rights representatives, welfare organizers, social workers, child psychiatry experts, psycho-educational experts, office clerk, complaints management experts, administrative personnel, outpatient experts, translators, oxicologist, toxicologist, volunteer workers, advocacy experts, legal and court experts, financial experts, media professionals etc.

Representation in the board includes independent self-help organizations, genders and regions.

The membership consists of professionals in the fields of advocacy, rehabilitation, reform psychiatry as well as of users.

In the field of mental health the main targets of the Federation are issues concerning equal access, advocacy and the enforcement of human rights. The activities of PÉF are not limited to Hungary. It also fosters the enforcement of internationally acknowledged human rights of people with mental disabilities within the frameworks of the European Treaty of Human Rights, the European Welfare Chapter, the International Agreement on Civil and Political Rights, the International Agreement of Economic, Welfare and Cultural Right as well as the UN Treaty of Equal Chances for Persons with Disability. The full recognition of the rights of mentally disabled persons is acted upon by taking into consideration a possible harmonization of the actual legal norms and health care programs in Hungary with international human rights standards. This is why a special attention is paid by our Federation to international disability and anti-torture agreements (e.g. CRPD, OPCAT).

The activities of the Federation are consensus-based, the coordination with the Hungarian Psychiatric Association (when it is possible…) and several national and international organizations (including NGO-s, decision-makers and governmental authorities) is a permanent must.

Between 1999 and 2008 the Federation was a member of National Health Care Council, and it was a member of the mental health and addictology section of NBF (National Patient Forum). Forum has a huge nationwide activity on different levels, such as National Disability Council etc.

About 25% of the population is affected by some kind of mental disorder in Hungary. The rate of suicides and alcohol abuse is extremely high, Hungary ranks among the 5 highest in the world. 1% of the population has schizophrenia. According to authentical evidence the number of persons with a kind of mental disability amounts to 700 000 (only partly including persons with drug abuse problems).

Our main activities: management of complaints, monitoring, assessment of legal measures, decrees, laws, participation in national and international conferences, workshops, participation in government initiated activities (codification), boards, committees, legal counselling (e.g. litigation), representations in law-cases (precedental or test cases) assessment and expertise.

PÉF is a member in the following organisations:

• Hungarian Group for Philosophy, Medicine and Mental Health
• Mental Health Europe (National Focal Point of Hungary)
• National Body for Professional College of Disabilities
• OPCAT Hungarian Preventing Mechanism Civil Coodination Body OPCAT
• National Disabilty Forum
• National Body for Coordinating Deinstitutionalization of Institutional Places

Board meetings are held to discuss previous achievements and future objectives.

The activities of the Federation are covered Hungarian sources.

In 2000-2001 activists of PÉF visited all psychiatric care homes in Hungary and made interviews with the inmates, their helpers and the management. Their experiences have been published in the report Human rights in psychiatric care homes. In the framework of the care homes 10 regional PÉF centers have been established helping to maintain a permanent communication among the inmates of faraway institutions. Heads of residential self- governments could exchange their experiences in the framework of regional meetings organized by PÉF.

The report Human Rights in Child Psychiatry summarizing a research made in child psychiatry wards was published in 2003.

The report Human rights in special care homes for children summarizing the monitoring of special institutions for children was published in 2008.

The follow up report of the Human rights in psychiatric care homes was published in 2008 (it is available in printed format only).

As a summary of monitoring of community providers and outpatient psychiatric clinics the analysis The Monitoring of Outpatient Psychiatric Clinics and Community Psychiatric Providers 2011 was published in 2012.

It is our experience that our human rights efforts have been incapable of achieving their final objectives; there are no guarantees whatsoever that mental health care will enforce minimal rights; the solution seems to require more time. Membership of the EU in itself made no difference in this field. National legal norms still fail to meet international standards in every respect; e.g. a significant decision of the Constitutional Court still has been neglected in lower level legislation. No general legal prohibition of the use of cages has been formulated so far although the Hungarian government gave a written guarantee of their immediate cancellation to CPT as early as in 1999; after the efforts of a decade only a government decree prohibits their use. Long years were needed to make – in accordance with the UNO CRPD Treaty and at least in legislation - psycho-social disability a recognized disturbance. There is still much to be done in this field. We have a constant thousand complaints per year.

In a significant part of psychiatric care homes the situation is nearly „medieval”. Relationships between doctors and patients display a strict hierarchy in the majority of provisions. Strong drug industry lobby is not a guarantee of the principles of equal chances either. The situation of child psychiatry is depressing. Wehave a strong cooperation with the Social Government.

The members of PÉF:

• Viktória Kun
• Gábor Berényi
• Andor Erika Alexandra Mrs.Radó
• Fatime Radó
• Krisztina Bagi J.D.
• Foundation for the Human Rights of Persons with Mental Disabilities For Our Equilibrium Foundation
• Katalin Pető M.D.
• Iván Radó
• Association of Psychotic Patients of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County

Also we have some very excellent experts from a various scale of scientic and service provider fields

Honorary members:

• Eric Rosenthal JD
• † Béla Buda M.D.
• Júlia Szilágyi M.D.

Major partners of PÉF:

• Foundation for the Human Rights of Mental Health Patients
• CPT European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
• Awakenings Foundation
• Hungarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disability
• European Patient’s Forum
• Galileo Galilei Institute
• Health Consumer Powerhouse, Sweden
• Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights of Hungary, also as National Preventing Mechanism
• Innovative Medicines Initiative
• National Body for Coordinating Deinstitutionalization of Institutional Places
• London School of Economics
• Makshivim – An Interactive Online Project Recovery and Social Inclusion of Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities, Israel
• Margit Slachta National Institute for Social Policy
• National Disability Council
• PatientView
• PILI Public Interest Law Initiative
• Sidley Austin LLP
• State Secretariat for Social Affairs
• UN CRPD Committee
• World Psychiatry etc.

Budapest, March 2023

Iván Radó