NEW DELHI: A landmark Act that decriminalises suicide, prescribes rules for more humane treatment of mental patients and bans electric shock for mentally ill children has been notified by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The Mental Health Care Act, 2017, is aimed at ensuring that every person has the right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government. It replaces a 1987 Act.
The Act, passed by Parliament last year, also assures free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or below the poverty line, even if they do not possess a 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.
A person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his mental health, mental health care, treatment and physical health care. A photograph or any other information pertaining to the person cannot be released to the media without the consent of the person with mental illness.
Also, the new Act that has been brought in following wide consultations, gives an opportunity to a person to provide advance directions on the kind of treatment they would want in case they are diagnosed with a mental illness in the future.
The Act also mentions keeping a check on voluntary admissions, and if admission is required, it will be for a specific period under the supervision of a trained psychiatrist.
Experts said that the new law could run into some teething problems but would be immensely beneficial for mentally health patients 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, co-ordinator of the Pune-based Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy.