Promoting human rights always promotes mental health. When human rights are violated, mental health is always violated. Human rights advocacy is an integral element of the clinical practice of psychiatry in the GW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the psychiatric education of residents and medical students. Promotion of human rights is particularly salient for programs of global mental health.
Each GW psychiatry resident receives training in the psychiatric evaluation of individuals seeking asylum status in the United States. Most individuals have suffered political oppression and have been tortured by their governments or “under color of the law” in their home countries. Their asylum petitions are based upon the threat of harm were they to return to their home countries. Others seek asylum protection as victims of human trafficking or other crimes under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.
Human Rights Clinic leadership is provided by Eindra Khin Khin, M.D., forensic psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry. Each resident conducts at least one political asylee evaluation under faculty supervision. Interested residents can pursue more advanced elective training in forensic psychiatry for refugees and political asylees. This work is conducted in close collaboration with Physicians for Human Rights as well as with the asylum clinics at the George Washington University Law School and Georgetown University Law Center. These learning opportunities are also available for GW medical students. In addition, psychiatry residents and medical students can elect scholarly projects in areas of forensic psychiatry and global mental health, such as legal protections for the rights of the mentally-ill internationally.