Protecting Mental Health & Building Resilience : A Dialogue for Human Rights Defenders

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The Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales (BHRC) is pleased to announce that registration is now open for our upcoming virtual panel event, Protecting Mental Health and Building Resilience: A Dialogue for Human Rights Defenders, which will be held on Thursday 21 July 2022 @ 2pm (UK) on Zoom.

As we well know, human rights work demands extraordinary resilience and courage from defenders and practitioners who often work under immense personal risk and pressures which put them at greater risk of anxiety, depression, and PTSD, which can manifest as physical illnesses and adversely impact mental health. These conditions can lead to burnout and drive human rights professionals to exit the human rights field entirely, as the Human Rights Resilience Project has noted. A University of York study has also identified the harmful influence of “strong social and cultural norms about self-sacrifice, heroism, and martyrdom” in human rights work and “the pressure that defenders feel about needing to be (and to appear) ‘brave’”, as well as an “insufficient focus” on mental health in the human rights field.

Through this virtual panel event, BHRC brings into focus the vastly underexplored dimensions of trauma, vulnerability, resilience and wellbeing to the work that we as human rights defenders do. This event, which will be chaired by BHRC’s Vice-Chair Aswini Weereratne QC, will:

  • Explore the challenges, personal risks and psychological impacts experienced by those in the human rights field;
  • Exchange good practices in managing scepticism, hopelessness and burnout, proactively managing the emotional toll human rights work can take, and learning how to consciously and positively nourish their commitment to the crucial work that human rights defenders do; and
  • Highlight the ways in which human rights defenders can maintain their mental health, build resilience, learn self-care and self-protection strategies, and importantly, create vital spaces for self-reflection to better understand and navigate the risks their work involves.

For this event, we are delighted to welcome:

Satyajit Gupta, IBA Asia Pacific Forum & India Chair, Member of the IBA Task Force Wellbeing in the legal profession, India

Dr Sana Hamzeh, Restart Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, Lebanon & Physicians for Human Rights

Nighat Dad, Member of the Meta Oversight Board & Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan

Anjli Parrin, Project of War Crimes and Mass Graves, Human Rights Clinic and Institute, Columbia Law School, USA


Dr Gemma Houldey, Author of The Vulnerable Humanitarian, who will lead a taster workshop within the session on self- and collective care strategies for human rights defenders.



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[email protected] Committee on Legal Affairs Parliamentary Assembly Report by @PieterOmtzigt elaborates in detail "Other Avenues for Accountability: The Question of State Responsibility for Genocide". YJC's report on State Responsibility & Yazidi Genocide found here:

Register now for BHRC's virtual panel, 'Protecting Mental Health and Building Resilience: A Dialogue for Human Rights Defenders', Thurs 21 July @ 2pm (UK), with a stellar lineup of expert speakers on mental wellbeing and resilience in human rights work.