Mental Healthcare Bill progressive

The passage of the Mental Healthcare Bill by Parliament is an important event in the evolution of the country’s medical laws and approach to diseases, as it prescribes some new and refreshing policies and practices to address critical issues of mental health. The Bill has been discussed and debated for long and, therefore, incorporates some of the best contemporary ideas about mental healthcare. It adopts an approach based on the rights of individuals who suffer from mental illnesses and not on the attitudes of others to them. Such attitudes have traditionally dominated the way mental health patients have been treated by society and even by medical personnel. The Bill has been updated and has gone beyond the Mental Health Act, 1987, in many respects. An important aspect of the Bill is that it treats mental illness as something which can be treated and cured, and not as an abnormality which leads to ill-treatment and ostracism from society.

Some highlights of the Bill are the provisions relating to the patient’s consent to treatment, right to choose the course of treatment, right to equality of treatment, protection against discrimination and free legal services. A key idea of the bill is to respect those who suffer from an illness and to consider them as individuals with all legal and human rights. The Bill bans electric shock therapy for children and allows it only on certain conditions for adults. Mentally ill people are commonly subjected to degrading procedures like chaining, confining, torture and forced sterilisation. These were even considered methods of treatment along with white or black magic practices. Patients will hopefully not be put through them anymore, though social attitudes based on ignorance and superstitions will take time to change. The Bill is an enlightened and progressive law which should help in the treatment of mental illnesses in a country where there is much stigma attached to it and patients are locked away, abandoned or dumped into asylums. The need for psychiatric counselling is only finding gradual acceptance today.

The Bill has helped to remove a serious misconception about suicide. The decriminalisation of suicide follows naturally from its view that suicidal tendencies are a part of the mental illness. Those who suffer from them should be treated and not proceeded against under the law and punished. This and other provisions make the Bill a humane law and it rightly received all-round support in Parliament. However, the extremely poor medical infrastructure and the severe shortage of medical personnel in the country will make the Bill’s implementation a major challenge in the foreseeable future.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry