New Act Decriminalising Suicide, Humane Treatment For Mental Health Patients Announced By Centre
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has notified a new law that decriminalises suicide, prescribes more humane treatment for mental patients and bans electric shock therapy for children suffering from mental health issues.
The Mental Health Care Act, 2017, replaces a 1987 law and ensures that every person has access to mental health care and treatment for mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government, reported The Indian Express.
What does the Act say?
This Act was passed in the Lower House of the Parliament last year in March. This act also ensures that people who are homeless and people belong from below poverty line would be given free treatment even if they do not possess BPL card.
“Every person with mental illness will have a right to live with dignity, and there shall be no discrimination on any basis, including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability,” the Act says.
The Act has been introduced after a wide range of consultations. This also talks about the treatment a person can avail in the future when faced with mental health issues. It also says that a person has the right to confidentiality in respect to name, mental health, mental health care, treatment and physical health care. His photograph also cannot be published in media without consent.
The Bill also allows people to provide advance directions on the kind of treatment that they prefer in case of being diagnosed with mental illness in future. They can also nominate a representative. The advance directive has to be certified by a medical practitioner or registered with the Mental Health Board. Further, all insurance companies are required to provision policies for the mentally ill.
The law will also keep a check on voluntary and involuntary admission. Experts say that the law can run into some teething problems but would be helpful in the long run.
“For the first time in our country, we have the right to mental health care. No other health sector has this right, and universal mental health care for 1/6th of humanity is a reality now,” said Soumitra Pathare, coordinator of the Pune-based Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy.
Last year, Union Health Minister JP Nadda said, “The earlier Act focused on regulations, but this new Bill is patient-centric and after wide consultations, we have ensured that the patient’s interest is safeguarded”. He further said that this was a “right-based bill” that gives the right to patients so that they are not denied treatment or suffer from discrimination. The Bill assures free treatment for people who would like to access mental health care, if they are homeless or poor, and even if they do not possess a Below Poverty Line (BPL) Card.
The Logical Indian community hopes that with this amendment, there is more awareness and acceptance of mental illnesses amongst people, who can now avail the advantages presented in the Bill to improve their condition. We also encourage everyone to report any cases of deficiencies to authorities and help improve their services for the benefit of the community.