Lok Sabha passes Mental Healthcare Bill, decriminalising suicide, but doctors are sceptical over its implementation

The Mental Health Care Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha, with 134 official amendments in August 2016. This Bill decriminalises suicide, and empowers the patients for mental healthcare

The Lok Sabha today passed a very important Mental Health Care Bill, which provides mental healthcare and services for the people with mental illness and ensures these persons will have the right to live a life with dignity. This Bill also decriminalises attempted suicide.  In effect, IPC provisions cannot be invoked in case of an attempt to suicide.

The Bill defines:

“Mental illness” as a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgement, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs, but does not include mental retardation which is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, specially characterized by subnormality of intelligence.

Speaking on the Mental Health Care Bill, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare JP Nadda said, “The Bill empowers the individual with legal rights to demand treatment for mental illness from the state. It also decriminalises suicide and recognises caretakers. It curtails and punishes inhuman treatment or imprisonment of PMI.”

Lok Sabha passes Mental Healthcare Bill, decriminalising suicide, but doctors are sceptical over its implementation

Meanwhile, leading psychiatrists in Mumbai are sceptical about implementation of new law.

Dr Avinash D’sousa, Psychiatrist attached with LTMG (Sion) Hospital, said, “This Bill has a number of practical issues in implementation on a day to day basis. While the mental health Bill has empowered patients in terms of their treatment, it will create barriers for caregivers. Most of the people, who are suffering from mental illnesses, are not in capacity to take decisions on their own; this is where their relatives have to take a final call. Post the Act being passed, this will change.”

Dr Harish Shetty, Psychiatrist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital (Mumbai), said, “The advance directives will make it difficult to implement. The Act should not cause exclusion of those ill, but needs to be inclusive.”

Speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Sanjay Kumawat, a psychiatrist practicing in Mumbai, said the implementation of Mental Health Bill needs to be done in phases.

“We need awareness among people, judiciary, police personnel and the other stake holders. We also need to build an infrastructure to treat patients with mental illnesses. We need budget provisions for the same. Only after all these things, the implementation should start,” said Kumawat.

The Bill focuses on community based treatment. Special provisions for women and health have also been provided for. Among the various objectives, it provides for ensuring healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental illness “in a manner that does not intrude on their rights and dignity.”