The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Mental Healthcare Bill 2016 that recognises the rights of mentally ill people to affordable treatment and also seeks to decriminalise suicide. The Bill, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha in August last year, will replace the Mental Health Act 1987.
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...”
The Bill aims to provide health care, treatment and rehabilitation for patients and ensure they are “provided in the least restrictive environment possible, and in a manner that does not intrude on their rights and dignity”, the Bill states.
On Friday, when the Bill was taken up in the Lok Sabha, Union Health Minister JP Nadda had said it was a “rights-based bill”. “It [the Bill] gives them the right so that they are not denied [treatment] or discriminated against,” he had said.
The most important amendment made in the Bill is that it decriminalises suicide. “Any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to be suffering from mental illness,” the Bill states. The person will not be liable to punishment under the Indian Penal Code, as was the case until now.
Electro-convulsive therapy for minors and sterilisation of patients has been barred under the Bill. Patients also cannot be chained in any manner. The Bill also allows patients to determine the kind of treatment they can undertake and all insurance companies now have to provide medical insurance policies for the mentally ill.
“Persons who will not adhere to it will be liable to penalty and imprisonment. This is a very progressive bill,” Nadda had said.
Nearly 1%-2% of the country’s population suffered from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and nearly 5% of the population has suffered from depression and anxiety at the end of 2005, Nadda had informed the Lok Sabha in May 2016.