New Mental Health Bill Decriminalises Suicide



"It is a landmark bill which takes care of the rights of the mentally ill. It is forward looking and India needed such a law. It strongly protects the rights of mentally ill and puts a lot of onus for the welfare of the ill on the government," a health ministry official said.
The bill fills the long-standing gap in the mental health law in India after the country ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requiring it to harmonise its laws with those prevalent worldwide.
India had signed the convention on October 1, 2007 and it came into force on May 3, 2008.
Once the Parliament passes the Bill and it is assented to by the President, it will replace the Mental Health Act of 1987.
The new Bill guarantees several rights to the mentally ill from the right to privacy in mental health establishments to the right to dignity.
It bars inhuman practices such as electro convulsive therapy without anesthesia, sterilisation as a treatment for illness, chaining and tonsuring of heads of the mentally ill.
The Bill also provides stringent penalties for those found running unregistered mental health care establishments which would be fined with Rs 50,000 to Rs five lakh depending on the frequency of the offence.
It seeks to regulate the public and private mental health sectors and establish a mental health system integrated into all levels of general health care.
The law also provides for the Advance Directive to be furnished in writing by a person, irrespective of his mental illness, and registered with a Mental Board to be set up by the government at state and central levels.
This directive allows the individual to appoint a nominated representative to deal with the kind of treatment he wants in the case he falls mentally ill in future.
The Bill provides for a State Mental Health Authority and a Central Mental Health Authority along with a Mental Health Review Commission to regulate the sector and register institutions.
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Source: PTI