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Human Rights and Mental Health — Justice Speaks: Interview with Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren | Episode 64

Suicide Prevention from a Social Justice Perspective
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A new social movement is emerging, and it’s gaining momentum: it’s time we position suicide prevention as a social justice issue. If we only view suicide through the mental health lens, we will be very limited in our ability to create systematic change. When we look at suicide prevention through this lens, the change agents are the mental health service providers, who work with individuals – at least those who make it into their services; one-on-one, one at a time.

In order to take a more “upstream” approach to this, we need to think more broadly and conceptualize suicide prevention as a public health issue. When we view suicide through this lens, we can plainly see that many systems are involved in creating change – schools, workplaces, healthcare systems, justice, faith communities and more. Everyone can play a role in suicide prevention. But, I would argue, even this perspective falls short. Because if you haven’t been touched by suicide directly, you are usually unaware of its widespread and devastating impact and therefore, less inclined to allocate your energy toward targeting this particular health issue over others.

When we take a human rights perspective we consider new aspects of psycho-social injustice we need to fight against? For one, we have a grave imbalance in the way we treat mental health conditions and the way we treat other physical disorders. Because of this imbalance, people with mental health conditions often have a terrible time accessing adequate care. There are too few mental health treatment options and most of them are too costly for the average person. As my colleague Dr. Doug Johnson once said to me, “We have a psycho-social injustice problem. We have Americanized mental illness – by looking for quick fixes and ignoring the emotional impact of marginalization.”

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In this episode, Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren and I talk about a human rights approach to mental health promotion. She shares her insights from the bench of the Mental Health Court she oversees. Come take a listen to her story of her journey as she worked to develop a dignified, trauma-informed and humanistic approach for people who have been criminalized due to their serious mental health condition.

About Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren
Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren
Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren was elected Broward County Court Judge in 1997. Judge Lerner-Wren pioneered the first problem solving Mental Health Court in the United States, dedicated to the decriminalization and treatment of persons arrested with mental illness and co-occurring disorders. The Court is a national and international model. Judge Lerner-Wren speaks nationally and internationally and is an adjunct Professor for Nova Southeastern University, College of Psychology and Neuroscience. Judge Lerner-Wren is also an author, A Court of Refuge: Stories from the Bench of America’s First Mental Health Court. For more information on this episode go to

community, coping, coping skills, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, empowerment, hope, life skills, mental health, mental illness, mental wellness, new beginnings, recovery, resilience, self-care, Self-compassion, Self-empowerment, suicide, suicide awareness, suicide prevention


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