Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2017
Finally, India is progressing towards a stigma-free society. Last day, on Quora, a person asked me, that she doesn’t like people with Asperger’s Syndrome, so is that wrong. I explained to her how she was building up a stigma within herself, and how it was not good for her mental health also; I referred to her an article on A Clean India, free from taboos, stigmas and misconceptions and hence someone commented on the post with an acute sarcasm, “A Clean India? Haha…you have centuries to go”, well I was really embarrassed to find what people conserve about India and their attitude towards a social cause.
But today, I can proudly answer the person, that it won’t take centuries anymore to preserve and emancipate the rights of mentally growing population of our Nation; stigma is gradually getting down-marked with the ink eraser of law.
The Parliament on Monday passed the ‘Mental Healthcare Bill’ in the Lok Sabha. The bill was previously passed in the Rajya Sabha in August last year. This bill intends to replace the Act of 1987 which is found to be inadequate for people with mental health challenges, in the present scenario.
This is a very progressive step towards securing a position for this particular population, which, though not correctly measured, should be 6-7% of Indian population according to the statistical reports of 2005.
Till date, people suffering from depression, stress or anxiety feared to voice their problem openly as because the society could call them ‘mad’, if they opted for treatment; even 1-2% who were severely affected by schizophrenia or PTSD found no help in their locality, as because good mental health treatment and psychiatric therapy was not common in all clinics, hospitals and the like areas.
The picture we had in mind reflected, that people with any kind of disillusionment were sent to the asylum where they were given electric shocks to pacify activity, irrespective of diagnosis.
However, the new bill passed, guarantees every individual the right to access mental health care facilities irrespective of caste, creed and colour.
The Bill states that “every person the right to access mental health care and treatment from the government. This right includes affordable, good quality, easy access to services such as minimum mental health services in every district. Persons with mental illness also have the right to equality of treatment and protection from inhuman and degrading treatment.”
The Bill also ensures that every individual have the right to protect themselves from “inhuman and degrading treatment” and establish “right to equality of treatment…. and complain regarding deficiencies in provision of mental health care”.
So this is a huge step towards fighting social stigma and attitude towards mental health. When the law declares a behaviour as nuisance and punishable, it automatically reduces in volume; we all remember how dowry and domestic violence on women, had to be legally declared as offence, to protect women’s rights; we have not been able to eradicate it completely, however, the society cannot practice such things freely anymore.
The most important aspect of this Bill is on decriminalizing of suicide, which was very much required.
“A person who attempts suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code. Electro-convulsive therapy is allowed only with the use of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia. The therapy is prohibited for minors.”
The Bill also specifies the process and procedure to be followed for admission, treatment and discharge of mentally ill individuals. A decision to be admitted in a mental health establishment shall, as far as possible, be made by the person with the mental illness except when he is unable to make an independent decision or conditions exist to make a supported admission unavoidable.”
Hence a lot of queries regarding mental healthcare therapies are already answered.
However, the Bill is delegated to a few challenges in implementation as well. The Bill doesn’t include any specification on the guardianship of a mentally challenged individual; what will be his rights and duties towards the individual etc. hence a person with severe mental health problem may not get a secure guardian for survival and guidance.
Also it doesn’t discuss the financial source for the treatment facilities which will be provided to people with mental health deviations.
However, the Bill is a form of motivation for every Indian citizen and we can breathe a sigh of relief as because this a global measure towards promotion of awareness and good mental health.