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Mental Healthcare Act, 2017

To determine the health of an individual, there are mainly five aspects of personal health taken into account: physical, mental, social, spiritual, and intellectual. Mental health is a vital part of personal health and is more than the absence of mental illness. According to The World Health Organization (WHO) mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Mental health is a prevalent problem in India which needs serious discussion and attention. In recent times, there has been a remarkable surge of mental problems among the Indian population, but the lack of recognition still remains the same. On 27 March, 2017 Lok Sabha passed the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 which then commenced on July 2018. The act is seen as a valuable step towards catering the mental health needs of those wanting help and looks forward to protect their rights.

Definition Of Mental Illness Under This Act

The term Mental Illness in MHA 2017 is given an elaborate definition which was lacked by the previous act of 1987 in which mental illness was defined as any mental disorder and seldom as mental retardation, it is now defined in section 2 under the act according to which mental illness indicates a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or thought that seriously impairs behaviour, capacity to recognise reality, or ability to meet daily needs; mental conditions linked to the degradation of alcohol and drugs; but does not constitute a mental barrier, which is a state of a person's mind that has not developed normally or at all, often characterised by knowledge that is below average.

Major provisions of the act

These are some of the essential provision of the mental healthcare act,2017.

Rights of the mentally ill

The Act includes a number of rights for those with mental illnesses, such as:

  • It guarantees that everyone has the right to get mental healthcare and treatment from medical facilities managed or supported by the Government. These services are restricted to its three guiding principles: accessibility, availability, and affordability.
  • People who are homeless, destitute, or living below the poverty line are entitled to free mental health services and treatment from facilities that are run by the government regardless of the fact whether the individual carries a below poverty line card or not.
  • The right to equality and non-discrimination mandates that all individuals with mental illnesses receive the same care as those who have physical illnesses.
  • Access to basic medical records maintained by or supported by the government is a right for every person with a mental illness.
  • Subject to specific restrictions, this act also gives mentally ill people the right to confidentiality regarding their mental health, mental healthcare, and treatment.
  • Such mentally ill individuals and their nominated representative have been granted the right to information. Everyone has the right to know the provisions of this Act, the nature of the person's mental illness, the suggested course of treatment, and other information in a language he can understand.
  • The Legal Service Authority Act of 1987 grants people with mental illness the right to free legal services.
  • They have the ability to file complaints with the relevant authorities regarding shortcomings in the delivery of services.

Advance Directives

A person with a mental illness has the right to make an advance directive outlining their preferred course of treatment and nominating a representative. A medical practitioner certification or registration with the Mental Health Board is required for the advance directive. A mental health professional, family member, or caretaker can ask the Mental Health Board to examine, change, or revoke the advance directive if they do not want to follow it while providing care for the patient.

Mental health establishments

In the past, mental health facilities solely featured hospitals and nursing homes for those with mental illnesses. Later, under the Act, establishments for Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy were also included and were under government administration. Additionally, it says that the Act requires all mental health facilities to register with the appropriate central or state mental health authority.

The Center and state-level medical institutes have a responsibility to keep track of people who are mentally ill and receiving medical treatment. A list of the professionals who are professionally qualified to deliver healthcare must be kept up to date by the state authority. These establishments must meet specific requirements as listed in the Act in order to register.

Mental health review boards

The Act includes a few provisions that pertain to the establishment of Mental Health Review Boards.

The main duties of this quasi-judicial body include:

  • Registering, examining, changing, modifying, or revoking advance directives.
  • Nominating a representative to represent you.
  • Supporting statement of this decision about the lack of care and services.
  • Taking appropriate action to protect the rights of those who are suffering from mental illness.

According to Central Mental Health's recommendation, a Mental Health Review Board will be established in each district for a term of five years. Members of the Review Board include a representative of the Honorable District Judge (retired judges are also taken into consideration), the district collector, a psychiatrist, a medical professional, and two people who may be PMIs, caregivers, or representatives of non-profit organisations. Members may serve terms of office up to the age of 70.

Decriminalization of suicide

This landmark decision abolished Section 309 of the IPC. According to Section 115 of this Act, anyone who attempts suicide will be assumed to be experiencing significant stress unless otherwise proven, and they will not be tried or penalised in accordance with Indian Penal Code Section 309. A person who has attempted suicide and is under a lot of stress and must receive care, treatment, and rehabilitation from the government in order to reduce the possibility of another attempt.

Abolition of barbarous medical treatment

The act affirms that a person with mental illness shall not be subjected to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) therapy without the application of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia and ECT for minors is strictly prohibited. It also states that chaining in any manner or method whatsoever is banned.

Penalties and offences

Any infringement of a provision under this Act is punishable by a six-month prison sentence, a Rs. 10,000 fine, or both. Repeat offenders may face a further two years in prison, a fine ranging from 50,000 to 5 lakh rupees, or both.

The Mental Health Care Act of 2017 proved to be an admirable attempt in the treatment of mental disease in people. These are noble provisions that have been made. The most important of them was the abolition grievously harsh Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. However, there are a number of obstacles to this Act, including the subpar medical infrastructure of the nation, the severe dearth of mental health experts, a lack of funding, societal stigma, etc. The implementation of this act has to be a joint effort of the government along with the citizens of the nation only then the act would prove to be an asset to the nation.

  2. IPC 309. India Kanoon,

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