The effects of mental illness are often felt only by those suffering from it.
Except for extreme cases, they do not manifest themselves in physical symptoms.
This has led to it being deeply stigmatized and not talked about.
Though we are still a long way from giving our mental health and welfare the
importance they deserve, proactive action like this is a step in the right
direction was held while disposing of a Writ Petition filed in public interest
regarding the mental health of Tamil Nadu's prisoners in the case of KR Raja
vs State of Tamil Nadu,
WP(MD) 16484/2020 were division bench of the Madras
HC was shocked to discover that India is the most depressed country in the
world. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), over 90
million Indians suffer from some form of mental illness.
The petitioners filed the WP praying that a writ of Mandamus be issued to
mandate that a mental healthcare facility be set up either in Madurai or Trichy
Central Prison. It was found that several prisoners there suffered from
different forms of metal illness, but they were unable to receive treatment due
to the complete lack of facilities.
The bench looked into mental illness and rightly opined that almost all mental
ailments were treatable, curable and preventable if the illness was diagnosed
early and treated, and the patient was then appropriately rehabilitated.
However, the incidence of mental illness in the country has nearly doubled over
the past 10 years, largely due to a lack of awareness and the stigma surrounding
it. Other reasons the Court found for these alarming rates of mental illness are
high costs of treatment, lack of treatment facilities and an insufficiency of
It was found that India's mental healthcare budget in 2018 was
Rs.52,80,00,000/-, but this was reduced to Rs.40,00,00,000/- in 2019. It has
been noted that the actual amount spent by the Govt. on mental health was a mere
fraction of the budget, Rs.5,00,00,000/-. The division bench made some
concerning discoveries. The amount spent on mental health comes to 33 paisa for
mental health patient, given the number of 150 million people requiring urgent
care. It is reported in Parliament in March 2020 that a sum of 48 Crores Rupees
only has been spent on mental health in the year 2018-2019, which approximately
comes to Rs.2.40/- per patient in a year or approximately, 20 paisa per month
Furthermore, there is only one specialized mental healthcare research facility
in the country, NIMHANS. The numbers of mental health professionals are also
below the required levels; only one psychiatrist is available for every lakh of
the population even though the recommended ratio is 3:1,00,000. The Government
passed the Mental Healthcare Act in 2017 but a lack of awareness programs
coupled with stigma around the subject meant that this legislation has largely
flown under the radar.
The bench agreed that it was essential for a mental healthcare facility to be
set up in the Trichy and Madurai Central Prisons in accordance with S.103 of the
Mental Healthcare Act. In consideration of how often the subject is overlooked,
they decided to extend the scope of the petition beyond Tamil Nadu to issue
directions to the Central Government, State Governments and Medical Council of
India to identify the patients at the earliest by diagnosing the disease to give
proper treatment by improving the infrastructures, like, establishment of
hospitals, increasing the number of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatrist
social workers and allocation of more funds towards mental health, including the
conduct of regular surveys.
Looking into the prevalence of fresh cases, the Court held:
it is the need of the hour to have a Psychiatry Department in every District
Headquarters Hospital and a Psychiatrist in every Taluk Level Hospital.
also stated that rehabilitation was essential to treatment, but as it is not a
profit-making venture, private players would be hesitant to enter the market.
The onus would thus fall upon the Government to take the necessary steps to
establish and promote rehabilitative infrastructure.
Written By: Prime Legal Law Firm
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