The Human Rights Resilience Project Publishes First Global Study of Organizational Responses to Mental Health Risks in the Human Rights Field

Human rights advocacy can be a tremendous source of fulfilment, meaning, strength, and joy for advocates. Yet advocates are exposed to significant stressors and suffer elevated levels of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and burnout. Despite this, research into mental health and human rights is nascent. After three years of research, the Human Rights Resilience Project has published “From a ‘Culture of Unwellness’ to Sustainable Advocacy: Organizational Responses to Mental Health Risks in the Human Rights Field.

This global study is the first of its kind. Based on interviews with advocates at 70 organizations from 35 countries and dozens of experts, the study mapped how human rights organizations are responding to the mental health and well-being needs of advocates. The study found that, generally, organizations have responded poorly and much more needs to be done at all levels—individual, organizational, and field-wide. While attention to mental health and well-being in the field is gradually improving, organizational policies and practice lag behind and advocate needs are under-addressed. The study explored: (1) sources of stress and the harms advocates see as resulting from poor mental health and stress exposure; (2) the challenges to improving well-being; and (3) positive organizational practices for supporting well-being and building more resilient advocates and organizations.

The study concludes with recommended next steps, including further research, knowledge-sharing, and tailored education and trainings.

Access the article, which will appear in print in 48 Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice (2019) 443-554.

Review the Recommendations to Funders to Improve Mental Health and Well-being in the Human Rights Field.

Read a summary of the full article here.


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