THE MENTAL HEALTHCARE ACT,2017

Mental health is as much as required for the wellbeing of people and for the betterment of nation as the physical health is. Now a day’s mental health is being talked about a lot! Do you know Law and mental illness go hand by hand? Unlike, any other field of medical science. Because the rights of PMI (person with mental illness) must not be neglected and mental illness being one of the leading causes of disability, must be curtailed. World health organisation has also taken effective measures to help people coping with mental illness. Mental health not only affects the health of the individual but leads to social problems like unemployment, broken families, poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, suicide and related crimes. It also hinders the productivity of the people. Chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, thyroid etc are linked with mental illness. Hence noticing the severity of the issue, government has taken several initiatives.

The mental health care act 2017 was passed on 7 April 2017 and came into force on 7 July 2018, to provide mental health care and services for persons with mental illness and to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of such persons during delivery of mental healthcare and services. The act repeals the Mental Health care act, 1887. One of the main objectives of this act was to comply with the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2007. The United Nations Convention for Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which makes a paradigm shift from considering mental illness a social welfare concern to a human rights issue, requires the laws of the country to align with the convention to which India is a signatory. The new act was enacted as the existing act does not precisely protect the rights of mentally ill people.

NEED OF THE ACT: –

According to a study conducted by WHO for National Care of Medical Health (NCMH), at least 6.5% of the Indian population suffers from some serious form of mental illness. Though there are effective measures and treatments available, there is an extreme shortage of mental health workers like psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors and mental health care centers. The average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every Lakh people. India, hence undoubtedly declared the most depressed country in the world. Mental health is considered different from general health as in certain situations mentally ill people may not be in a position to make decisions by themselves. Mentally ill people are considered as a danger to society as well. Those who suffer rarely get access to medical help as mental illness is still treated as social stigma. After the infamous Erwadi fire incident of 2001, when 28 inmates of a faith-based mental asylum died in the fire, the need to have an act which will recognize and widen the rights of mentally sick people and to provide better care to them, was felt more than ever.

There is a dynamic relationship between the concept of mental illness, the treatment of mentally ill and the law.  Unlike any other field of medical science, psychiatry and law are co related. You have not heard about health care act related to any other illness but mental health care act is required to protect civil, political, social, and economic rights of the mentally ill individual, including right to access to education, employment, housing and social security. 

The mental healthcare act is a crucial step taken by the government. The act ensures that all the people suffering from mental illness must have a right to live with dignity and must not be treated badly by the society and must not be discriminated or harassed. The act not only focuses upon treatment, but also focuses upon the reintegration of mentally ill people back to the society. After so many failed legislations, it can be said that, this act serves the purpose. With the establishment of several mental health care centres and availability of mental health care practitioners, we are awaiting to see the consequences.

IMPORTANT FEATURES OF THE ACT:-

  1. Advanced directive – A major of sound mind can write an Advance directive (AD) as specified by mental health authority regarding his intention for the way he/she wishes to be taken care of by a particular person nominated representative (NR) in case he/she suffers mental illness later in life
  2. Nominated representative – There is a provision in this act for nominated representative by a mentally ill person. Any person can nominate a person as a nominated representative in writing in AD.
  3. Rights of mentally ill person – it talks about the rights of mentally ill persons like right of non-discrimination and right to confidentiality.
  4. Decriminalization of section 309 of IPC- after the commencement of this act, attempt to suicide is no longer an offence and the sufferer must be provided with help than to be sent to jail.
  5. Establishment of specific boards – this act says that, there shall be Mental health care boards at state and central level.
  6. Responsibility of other authorities – other government authorities like police must help patient in case they see they are neglected or mistreated by the family or other people and must take the patient to magistrate and medical practitioner.

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