The Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016, aims to provide provide for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and ensure these persons have the right to live a life with dignity by not being discriminated against or harassed.
The Bill defines “mental illness” as a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, 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 characterised by subnormality of intelligence.
Mental illness shall be determined in accordance with such nationally or internationally accepted medical standards.
Rights of persons with mental illness
The Bill ensures every person shall have a right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government. The Bill also assures free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or belong to Below Poverty Line, even if they do not possess a BPL card.
Every person with mental illness shall have a right to live with dignity and there shall be no discrimination on any basis including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability.
A person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare.
The photograph or any other information pertaining to the person cannot be released to the media without the consent of the person with mental illness.
A person with mental illness shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he/she wants to be treated for the illness and who his/her nominated representative shall be. The advance directive should be certified by a medical practitioner or registered with the Mental Health Board.
If a mental health professional/ relative/care-giver does not wish to follow the directive while treating the person, he can make an application to the Mental Health Board to review/alter/cancel the advance directive.
Mental Health Authority
The Bill empowers the government to set-up Central Mental Health Authority at national-level and State Mental Health Authority in every State. Every mental health institute and mental health practitioners including clinical psychologists, mental health nurses and psychiatric social workers will have to be registered with this Authority.
These bodies will (a) register, supervise and maintain a register of all mental health establishments,(b) develop quality and service provision norms for such establishments, (c) maintain a register of mental health professionals, (d) train law enforcement officials and mental health professionals on the provisions of the Act, (e) receive complaints about deficiencies in provision of services, and (f) advise the government on matters relating to mental health.
A Mental Health Review Board will be constituted to protect the rights of persons with mental illness and manage advance directives .
Mental Health treatment
The Bill also specifies the process and procedure to be followed for admission, treatment and discharge of mentally-ill individuals.
A medical practitioner or a mental health professional shall not be held liable for any unforeseen consequences on following a valid advance directive.
A person with mental illness shall not be subjected to electro-convulsive therapy without the use of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia. Also, electro-convulsive therapy will not be performed for minors.
Sterilisation will not be performed on such persons.
They shall not be chained in any manner or form whatsoever under any circumstances.
A person with mental illness shall not be subjected to seclusion or solitary confinement. Physical restraint may only be used, if necessary.
Suicide is decriminalised
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. The government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide.