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Decriminalising Suicide, Assuring Humane Treatment: A Revolutionary Mental Healthcare Bill Is Here!

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In order to protect and ensure the rights of those with mental illnesses, the Indian Parliament has recently passed the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016. It also aims to prevent harassment and discrimination of individuals with mental illnesses.

Here are some of the biggest highlights of the Bill that hopes to provide those with mental illnesses a life of dignity:

Image for representation. Photo source

Decriminalising suicide

One of the most noteworthy parts of the Bill is that it decriminalises suicide. The Bill notes, “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.”

Government to be responsible for the healthcare

The Bill notes that the government will be responsible for the care and rehabilitation of someone under severe duress and has attempted to commit suicide. This is to prevent such an occurrence from taking place again.

Those living in poverty or are living Below the Poverty Line will be assured free treatment by the government. Such a person doesn’t need to have a BPL card.

Privacy and confidentiality of those with mental illness

Photographs or additional information about a person with mental illness cannot be released to the media without the consent of the individual. They also have the right to privacy and confidentiality when it comes to their illness, their treatment and their physical healthcare.

Advance Directive

People with mental illnesses now will have the right to make an advance directive to state how he or she wants to be treated for their illnesses. They can also nominate a representative on their behalf. The directive ought to be either signed by a medical practitioner or it should be registered with the Medical Health Board.

Access to legal services

A person with mental illness is protected against discrimination based on gender, caste,  religion, beliefs, class or disability, culture and more. They also have the right to access free legal services and have the right to register a complaint if they do not get access to the rights guaranteed to them.


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Reducing the usage of electro-convulsive therapy

Electro-convulsive therapy will not be used on minors entirely. And in case of adults, it will only be used along with muscle relaxants and anaesthesia.

Assured humane treatment

A person with mental illness will not be subjected to sterlisation. They can also not be placed in solitary confinement or subjected to seclusion. Additionally, under no circumstance would someone with mental illness be chained in the name of treatment.

A Mental Health Authority to oversee treatment and healthcare

The Bill empowers the government to set up a Central Mental Health Authority, which will oversee operations at the national level and also a State Mental Health Authority in the different states in India. Mental health institutes and practitioners (and that includes doctors, nurses, psychiatric social workers) will have register themselves with this Authority. These bodies will also be training law enforcement officials as well as medical health professionals among its other duties.

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