The current pandemic has been an eye-opener for most of us. The consequent lockdown has affected our physical health and mental well-being. Most importantly, it has reinstated that health is wealth. Today, we will discuss how to enhance our mental health with the same laws that protect our physical presence.
Early Mental Health Legislation in India
Mental health legislation has existed in India since 19th century. However, it has undergone various changes over the years. Some noteworthy changes are:
- Lunatic Removal Act 1851, which ceased in 1891
- Lunacy (Supreme Courts) Act 1858
- Indian Lunatic Asylum Act 1858 (with amendments in 1886 and 1889)
- Military Lunatic Act 1877
Current Laws and Acts
The Indian Lunacy Act 1912
This is one of the first laws to govern mental health in India. It brought a fundamental change in the management of asylums. For instance, the Act led to a change of term from ‘asylum’ to ‘mental hospitals’.
Mental Health Act (MHA) 1987
This Act defined mental illness in a progressive way. Furthermore, it emphasized on care and treatment, then custody.
The criticisms of the Act related to the legal procedures of licensing, admission and guardianship led to the Amendment and the culmination of the Mental Health Care Bill 2013.
Mental Health Care Act 2017
This is the latest Act that came into existence. It aims to align the Local MHA 1987 with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Protocol.
To summarize, the experiences listed below are forbidden exclusively, by this act.
- Firstly, electro-convulsive therapy without the use of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia
- Sterilization of men or women, when such sterilization is intended as a treatment for mental illness
- Chaining in any manner whatsoever
- Lastly, ‘psychosurgery’ without consent
Decriminalization Of Suicide Attempts
This reform in Section 115(1) decriminalizes suicide. Previously, suicide was punishable in Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. Now, however, suicide is considered to be the result of severe stress. The Government has to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to those who attempt to commit suicide. It is a sustainable way to reduce the risk of recurrence.
The Act is a praiseworthy effort to address the long-standing problems encountered by patients and clinicians in the mental health sector. In addition, it has great potential to bring radical changes in mental health care in our country. We must note that some sections of this act have been criticized. However, it is proper in the current scenario.
Law protects right to live in a community, right to confidentiality and a strict punishment for those who violate the law. Specifically, punishment consists of imprisonment for six months. A monetary fine can also be imposed, which extends up to Rs.10,000. For repeat offenders, it can go up to two years of imprisonment. In addition, a fine between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 5,00,000 can be placed.
It is crucial for us to spread awareness about laws that entail the right to affordable mental health care. Above all, we must declare mental health safety a basic right for every Indian citizen. As a result, the people living with such illnesses can make informed decisions regarding their treatment.
We must build mental health services for our future. For instance, we can include the shifting of services to our community. We can also make them accessible online and include it in universal health coverage.
We are all experiencing many emotions right now. It is certainly not an easy task to express such emotions. However, we hope this acts a reminder for all of you to take care and be kind to yourself.
Edited by: Priyanka Srinivas