Role of Dignity in Mental Healthcare: Impact on Ageism and Human Rights of Older Persons

Debanjan Banerjee, Kiran Rabheru, Carlos Augusto de Mendonca Lima, Gabriel Ivbijaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The global demographic shift toward an aging population is predicted to result in a significant burden of mental health conditions and psychosocial disability. There has been a greater awareness of ageism and its toxic effects creating a paradigm shift to include a human right, ethical, and social justice-based approach to augment the biomedical model of mental healthcare. The concept of dignity lies at the heart of human rights and must be a central concept integrated into public health and mental healthcare. Dignity denotes the self-respect and worthiness of an individual as well as social consideration of his/her identity. Dignity in older persons is multi-dimensional and includes several factors such as privacy, independence, inclusion, autonomy, etc. There are several determinants such as frailty, dependence, sensory, cognitive impairment and socioeconomic vulnerabilities, which tend to compromise dignity in the elderly and hence their fundamental rights. One such construct is that of ageism which comprises stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination based on age. Ageism and related forms of stigma impair dignified healthcare in older persons and deprive them of their rights. Mental health professionals are uniquely positioned to incorporate the strategies to promote dignity in their clinical care and research as well as advocate for related social/health policies based on a human rights approach. These intersections are discussed in this paper in light of the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Older Persons.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 May 2021


  • ageism
  • Dignity
  • discrimination
  • geriatric
  • human rights
  • mental health
  • older persons


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