Mental health care act, 2017 – An overview
India has a 1.3 billion population out of which 7.5% suffer from mental illness. Indian’s are not that opened minded when it comes to mental disorders, they assume that something is wrong with the person and doesn’t believe that it’s just a type of curable disease. For a developing country like India we lack understanding of what mental illness is, we lack in providing proper meditation, we even lack an efficient number of psychiatrist. According to reports, we have 1/50th of the amount that should be there. The new mental health care act has made a huge difference by making a lot of changes in the system and rules.
Access to affordable health care:
As we lack several psychiatrists, the ones that we have are not affordable by all so according to the new bill, every citizen of India has a right to good quality and affordable care near them. The people who can’t afford the treatment the government will have to pay for them and the government is entitled to pay free of cost.
It is also mentioned in the Mental health care act that no doctor or staff member should discriminate against any of their patients on basis of gender, sex, religion, etc.., the right to safety ensures that the patient lives with his dignity and if anyone violates it the patient can fill a court pleading to ensure the safety of his right.
Informed consent and power to take decisions:
In past, we have come across cases where the person who was suffering from mental illness, was not able to exercise his say in the decision-making, but this act does not allow that. If the person suffering from any kind of mental disorder is lucid, he understands the nature, depth, treatment, side effects has all the information about the treatment and consequences, and thoroughly understands them, and then he has all the right to make his own decision. The patient is entitled to know what is happening with him and fully acceptable to have a say in the decision-making.
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Right to live in a community:
For people who suffer from mental disorders society usually don’t accept them. People think that in some way the person will harm them and they just boycott the person but that step is very harmful to the person suffering from the illness. So, the Mental health care act has made sure that the person suffering from any kind of mental illness has the right to live his normal life, and if the condition of the illness is worst in some cases and they should not be living in normal circumstances then the government will provide legal and all the other necessary support to them for them to continue living their regular life as that is very helpful for their recovery.
Especially, a mother cannot be separated from his child who is less than three years unless and until the patient’s condition is harmful to the child.
Right to confidentiality:
The person suffering from the disorder can keep his illness confidential if he wishes to. This right protects the interest of the patient and gives him the accountability of the decision-making whether he wants to reveal his mental condition to anyone or not. According to the rules, the doctors are bound to keep the reports and condition of every patient to themselves, or else their license must be canceled. Even, the media cannot publish the reports or even the photographs of the patient on air without the consent of the patient.
Mental health treatment:
There are all age group people suffering from mental illness as all of their body types varies the treatment also differentiates.
- All the patients cannot be made to live in unsafe and unhygienic surroundings. They have the right to live with their pride and dignity, with leisure, with a wholesome amount of food, privacy, and equality. If any of those things are not made available the institute must be held liable.
- Shock treatment that is electro conclusive therapy should not be performed on minors and when it is supposed to be performed on adults it should not be done without the use of muscle relaxants and anesthesia.
- Sterilization, chaining the patients, behaving cruelly with the patients by the institution is not at all acceptable under any circumstances.
- The mental health sufferer should not be subjected to seclusion or solitary confinement.
Decriminalization of suicide:
The person who tries to attempt suicide is thought to be undergoing some severe stress or mental illness, and it would not be authentic for the person trying to end his life to be put in hell with no purpose. So, according to the Indian penal code trying to commit suicide is not punishable. Instead, they would be provided with rehabilitation and proper care for reducing the risk of reoccurrence of an attempt to suicide.
The mental health care act allows the person suffering from any kind of mental illness to decide for themselves. He can make an advance directive stating about his treatment decision and even can nominate someone for deciding for him when he is not able to do so by himself. The directive has to be signed and certified by the medical practitioner registered in the medical board. So that the representative of the patient or the directive can decide for the patient when he is not capable of. If the caregiver does not want to treat the patient in the directive’s way he will have to fill the petition to the mental health board to cancel the advance directive.
Mental health authority:
The act asks the government to form mental health authorities. The central mental health authority and the state mental health authority in every state. After forming mental health authority every institute and every mental health worker has to be registered with this authority. These authorities are formed for several reasons, for the supervision of all the mental health establishments, to maintain a register of mental health workers, to maintain and developed quality and service provision norms, advise the government on matters related to mental health.
Also, a mental health review board has to be formed to protect the rights of the sufferers of mental health and manage their directives. This commission of authorities will consist of everyone from including judges to activists to mental health survivors for ensuring the right is happening and the sufferers are gaining.
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For first time offenders;
- Imprisonment for a maximum period of six months or a fine of Rs. 10,000 or both
For subsequent violators;
- Imprisonment of the maximum of 2 years or fine from 50,000 to anywhere in between of 5,00,000 or both.
- If anyone is stopped from exercising any of their rights, they are allowed free legal services to fight for it.
Mental health care act, 2017 is a very efficient bill. This finally shows mental health as an aspect is being taken very seriously now. This act is very doable and well-intended but the only problem we have is this type of act doesn’t make an immediate impact or change in the short term or long term. The clauses in the Mental health care act are long-awaited and to reach the impact is far. The best we can hope for is that this act goes far from just being a piece of legislation.
(Writer, The Legal State)