What is the ERNI Declaration and who may it be of interest to?
The ERNI Declaration seeks to collect Human Rights allies who wish to take a position on the way in which distress, including extreme distress, is routinely understood and responded to across the globe.
The ERNI Declaration is a shared position statement that may be relevant to those who use or have used MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, those who support family members who access services, and those who work within them. It may be of particular interest to people who have found so-called ‘treatment’ to dehumanise or invalidate them and their experiences. It may be of relevance to practitioners and community members who find it hard or impossible to work within the existing medical paradigms and who see the current system as based upon fundamentally pseudo-medical ideas which do harm.
The ERNI Declaration is a shared position statement that posits that EMOTIONS ARE NOT ILLNESSES. It states that ‘people experience a range of emotional distress including misery, a sense of failure, despair for the future, self-loathing, worry, loneliness, heart-break (and so on). These things can and do result in great suffering, but they are not illnesses. This medicalisation of distress is largely responsible for the unacceptably ineffective mental health services we currently have.’ It makes a case ‘for a move away from the concepts of treatment and cure to those involving helping people understand the impact of psychological injury and the role of many different types of adversity.’
The ERNI Declaration evolved from the sense of impotence felt by lone individuals forced to access or work in mental health services that are fundamentally flawed, unhelpful, or harmful. The ERNI Declaration is a clear statement that positions its signatories alongside allies. It moves us away from the position of being the lone advocate in a powerful system to being alongside international peers. It makes visible what we believe and how we approach our professional work or the care we receive within mental health services. ANYONE can sign the declaration if they feel it represents their view.
The ERNI declaration is based on the idea that distress does not equate to disease, dysfunction, dysregulation, or chemical imbalance. Signatories believe that there needs to be a shift from illness and diagnosis ideas to personal narratives and understandings. The declaration was created with the appreciation that there are many like-minded people out there who share opinion, research, ideas, and experiences with others within many contexts but are frustrated by subsequent lack of action or change within mental health and other related systems.
Who created the declaration and why did they?
The declaration originated in Yorkshire in the UK through conversation between a group of people who use services and practitioners frustrated and hurt by the human rights violations that occur in the name of ‘treatment’. They recognised that the problem was not local or individual but existed on the broadest level of context. As the ‘little people’ in the mental illness industry, they felt individually impotent in the face of the mass global marketing of distress (including extreme distress) as ‘symptomatic’ of underlying illness.
They also felt that it was unacceptable to hold these beliefs and do nothing. The declaration is no more or less than an attempt to bring together allies as signatories in order to make statements about how they wish to be understood by those offering help and how they understand people who are suffering.
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