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Q. Mental Health Care Bill 2013: Outline the current status of Mental Health Care in India and Discuss how new bill will address various issues associated with it.
Aug 16, 2016 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

Introduction-

Recently Rajya Sabha has passed the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 and now the bill is pending in Lok Sabha for discussion. The Bill seeks to replace the Mental Health Act, 1987 and it decriminalises the attempt to suicide, and gives individuals with mental illnesses new rights that include access to health care and insurance.

Present status of mental health care system in India-

  • The World Health Organisation has recently estimated that 1 in 4 persons will be affected by some form of mental illness once in their lifetime.
  • In 2005, it was estimated that 6-7% of the population suffered from mental disorders, and about 1-2% suffered from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • Nearly 5% of the population suffered from common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • India allocates just over 1% of the Centre’s health budget to mental health, with States making comparable allocations.
  • The situation today is a far cry from what is promised. States with well-functioning district hospitals do not offer regular psychiatric outpatient services, leave alone in-patient facilities.
  • In government hospitals, medication to treat even the more common psychiatric disorders is not always available.
  • Mental health treatment in India has the colonial legacy of large asylums and degrading confinement. Many who are held in such places have nowhere else to go, as families facing stigma have abandoned them.
  • In 2007, India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires signatory countries to change their laws to give effect to the rights of persons with mental illness.

Key Features-

  • It defines mental illness to mean a disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory.
  • The Bill states that every person would have the right to specify how he would like to be treated for mental illness in the event of a mental health situation.
  • It also makes person responsible for any treatment of mental illnesss.
  • The Bill decriminalises suicide. It states that whoever attempts suicide will be presumed to be under severe stress, and shall not punished for it.
  • The Bill requires that every insurance company shall provide medical insurance for mentally ill persons on the same basis as is available for physical illnesses.

Analysis-

  • The proposed changes are much needed one, it has adopted a medicalised approach to attempted suicide, treating it as the outcome of severe stress.
  • It rightly blocks the application of the Indian Penal Code section that criminalises it.
  • A duty is also cast on the authorities to care for and rehabilitate such individuals. It will strengthen the social determinants of health, especially when it comes to universal welfare support systems against catastrophic events in people’s lives.
  • Reliable and free professional counselling must be widely offered.
  • It also provides halfway home system, where supportive families, medical care and a better quality of life will help many recover.

Conclusion-

The proposed legislation, once passed, it will be watershed legislation that lays down clear responsibilities for the state and has provisions that empower individuals and families. Presently access to mental health treatment is dismally poor, the bill will expand access to treatment. In this background the bill which tries to address various issues of mental health care is welcome move.


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