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Want to decode the mental health care Act of 2017? Explained here.

In the Indian context, it is said that a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. This belief has always ignored the condition of the mind, as a result of which more than half of the population of this country is not ready to believe that even a physically healthy person can be mentally unwell. The presence of physical, mental, and social well-being in a person is a sign of a person’s health, and even a slight disturbance in one of these places is a sign of the person being unwell.

According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, 197.3 million Indian people are suffering from mental disorders i.e. more than 197 million people of this country are unwell but because we are unhealthy because our mind is unhealthy that is the reason this society is refusing to accept that they are unwell.

What do we understand by the Mental Health Care Act of 2017?

The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 27, 2017. It is not that there was no Healthcare Act in India earlier. Earlier, the Mental Healthcare Act 1987 existed but it was strongly denied because it did not talk about the rights of the mentally ill people and was creating a way where people with mental disorders were separated from the rest and the death by suicide of a mentally ill person was declared an offense by law.

The Mental Health Care Act 2017 defines a mental disorder as “a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation, or memory that does not result in the ability to meet the normal demands of life to reach a decision”, as well as those mental problems that are associated with alcohol and drug abuse.’ Also, the Indian Penal Code 309 was rejected, under which a mentally challenged person commits suicide. The law was a crime. Under this law, the rights of the mentally ill person have been protected, under which they can get the kind of treatment they want.

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There are some important and relevant provisions under this Act which should be noted by people:

  1. The individual needs to have better health services that are good in quality, easily accessible. There is a provision to get freedom from inhuman treatment, free legal service. It is up to the individual to choose his/her treatment and is free to choose his/her nominee.
  2. It is important to book registration of Psychologist, Practitioner, Mental Health Nurse under Mental Authority at National and State level is mandatory.
  3. It is mandatory to have a confession of a mentally ill person. From the process of admission of a mentally ill person to the process of his treatment and discharge is present in the Act.
  4. It is the responsibility of the government that the person should not try to commit suicide. Electroconvulsive therapy cannot be administered to a mentally challenged person without anesthesia and the use of this therapy on children is prohibited.

There are some provisions for punishments too:

Under this act, contravention of the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months or with a fine of Rs 10,000, or with both. Repeat offenders can be punished with imprisonment of up to two years or a fine of Rs 50,000-5 lakh or both.

It is important to recognize mental illness so that we can get it treated in time. Getting treatment for mental problems or talking openly about it is not a matter of shame, so-called respect. Whenever you feel, then also take legal help in this matter because the constitution protects your rights.

The World Health Organization, recognizing mental health, states that mental health and well-being are fundamental to quality of life. It enables people to make life meaningful with experiences, to be creative and active citizens. Mental health should be an important issue for any country to lead a better life and to have an active civic sense. But even in a developing country like India, this issue still does not seem to be included in the priorities even far and wide. We still have a long way to go to combat mental illness in our country and end the stigma so that people struggling with mental health issues can live at peace.

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Jagisha Arora

MA in History and has worked as a freelance writer. She writes on issues of gender, caste and democracy.
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