Every person has a fundamental right to those things required for human decency. A major theme of Catholic social teaching is that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met.
From Seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
To defend the dignity of individuals with mental illness, advocacy efforts are needed in the following areas:
Faith Community – Acceptance and socialization in one’s faith community is key to a greater awareness of God’s love. Being an active part of the faith community deepens one’s spirituality and gives hope and support to people who may at times feel disconnected from the community due to a mental illness. If a person feels rejected by their church they may often feel rejected by God. When a faith community accepts the person for who they are, the faith community reflects God’s unconditional love for all of us.
Employment – Employment is a key not only to economic stability, but to a person’s well-being, sense of purpose, self-esteem and the ability to contribute in the work environment. Opportunities for supportive employment must be made available so that people can make the transition to full recovery.
Language – Every person is created in the image and likeness of God. Using language that recognizes the person rather than the condition acknowledges their dignity and value.
Criminal Justice – Lack of mental health services often leads to unnecessary and inappropriate incarceration for minor crimes. Concentrated efforts should be taken to: (1) ensure the availability within local police forces of crisis intervention teams; (2) ensure that adequate and properly trained legal representation is available for persons with mental illness; (3) ensure that jails and prison systems provide mental health services, both for assessment and treatment, including access to adequate medication, and discharge to recovery programs; (4) eliminate the death penalty; and (5) create diversion programs that provide treatment instead of incarceration.
Housing – Lack of affordable housing poses a major problem, since a person living with mental illness may rely on disability financial assistance, or may be unable to work or obtain a job with a decent wage. Advocacy efforts must concentrate on ensuring that there are comprehensive services and affordable housing options that permit people to live in the community and that also address the high prevalence of homelessness.
Health Care – Proper diagnosis, medication, and an appropriate range of community psychological rehabilitation support services will deliver cost-effective results. As with treatment of cancer, early intervention and treatment of mental illness is key to favorable outcomes. A major health care concern is the shortage of mental healthcare professionals.