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The Pressing Needs of Mental Health Care and Indian Legal Scenario


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1 University of Lucknow, Lucknow, India
     

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A heartening feature of the healthcare in India is that life expectancy has increased from 32 years in 1947 to 68 years today. However, this has resulted in newer health challenges, notably in the form of mental illnesses. But the astonishing feature is that we do not talk about mental health seriously in the same terms as compared to physical health. Still today, mental disorders are seen as madness and insanity and considered as disgrace and shame. Mental health often tends to get neglected when compared to the significance typically attached to general health awareness. Mental illness is also similar to physical ailments and rooted in a biological basis as opposed to mythological beliefs which attribute mental illnesses to the presence of evil spirits or the like.

The World Health Organisation's Mental Health Gap Action Programme 2013-2020 indicates that mental, neurological and substance use disorders are common in all regions of the world affecting every community and age groups with most of the affected people belonging to low-income countries and asserts that with proper care, medication and psychological assistance, millions of peoples can be treated for depression, tendency for suicide and schizophrenia even with scarce resources. The neglect of nears and dears is thus making the issue of mental health care extremely important in the Indian scenario and an issue which has to be carefully and intelligently handled and given priority to on urgent basis. In such type of problems, there is an insidious and progressive decline in mental functions. While no cure exists, it is important to catch the ailment in its early stages and initiate certain measures. These include looking at patterned behavioural characteristics, setting routines for mundane tasks and certain medications. For the first time in India, mental health care is now a justiciable right following the enforcement of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. As a pressing need for the right to health movement in India, the law has recognized the right to access health care for citizens especially for mental health. More significantly, the Act guarantees right of access to every person of mental healthcare and treatment from mental health services run by the Government at an affordable cost as well as free mental healthcare to people living below the poverty line. Besides this, right to confidentiality in respect of mental health care treatment and right to free legal aid for exercising rights under the Act. While the present Act focuses mainly on the rights of persons in need of mental healthcare and their institutionalization but it lacks in providing for needs of the family and their contribution to treatments as well as the prevention aspect of mental illness and skill building among mental health care professionals. Probably, a more balanced Act is the need for the Indian scenario considering its social systems and constraints.


Keywords

Mental Health, Mental Health Survey, National Mental Health Survey, Mental Health Detoriation and Disorders, Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, Mental Health Act, 1987, Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, Central and State Mental Health Authorities.
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  • Malathy Iyer, “7.5% Indians suffer from mental disorders: WHO Report", Times of India, February 25, 2017; see also, , Mental Health Survey Report (October, 2016), National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengalaru.
  • Soumitra Pathare and Arjun Kapoor, “A plan for change”, The Hindu, August 26, 2018.
  • Special Correspondent, “India facing possible mental health epidemic”, The Hindu, December 31, 2017.
  • Shubashree Desikan, “New understanding of mental health”, The Hindu, March 18, 2018.
  • Soumitra Pathare, “A new narrative around mental health”, The Hindu, April 2, 2017.
  • Afshan Yasmeen, "India needs to talk about mental illness", The Hindu, October 23, 2016.
  • Hemchandran Karah, "Mental Health and the University", The Hindu, June 22, 2017.
  • Act 10 of 2017 passed on 7th May 2017.
  • Section 2 (3), Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
  • Id., Section 3.
  • Id., Section 18 – 21.
  • Ibid.
  • Id., Section 33 – 44.
  • Id., Chapter VIII.
  • Id., Section 65.
  • Id., Section 2 (r).
  • Id., Section 4 and 5.
  • Gundugurti Prasad Rao, "Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016: A boon or bane", 58(3) Indian Journal of Psychiatry 244-249(July-September, 2016).
  • Habeas Corpus Petition No. 1334 of 2007 decided on 14th September 2007.
  • AIR 2002 SC 3693.
  • (2002) 3 SCC 31.
  • Writ Petitions (Civil) No. 334 of 2001 along with Writ Petition (Civil) No. 562 of 2001, No. 118 of 2004, No. 613 of 2004 and Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 19178 of 2012 decided on August 21, 2017.
  • CR No. 5663 of 2017 decided on August 24, 2017.
  • Ibid.
  • Section 73 and 74, Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
  • G.P. No. 08 of 2017 decided on February 9, 2018.
  • Id., at para 7; see also para 14 of the judgement of Delhi High Court in Meenu Seth v. Binu Seth and others, FAO No. 411/2017 decided on October 27, 2017.
  • (1993) 4 SCC 204.
  • AIR 1990 SC 752.
  • 1995 (Supp.)4 SCC 505.

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  • The Pressing Needs of Mental Health Care and Indian Legal Scenario

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Authors

R. K. Verma
University of Lucknow, Lucknow, India

Abstract


A heartening feature of the healthcare in India is that life expectancy has increased from 32 years in 1947 to 68 years today. However, this has resulted in newer health challenges, notably in the form of mental illnesses. But the astonishing feature is that we do not talk about mental health seriously in the same terms as compared to physical health. Still today, mental disorders are seen as madness and insanity and considered as disgrace and shame. Mental health often tends to get neglected when compared to the significance typically attached to general health awareness. Mental illness is also similar to physical ailments and rooted in a biological basis as opposed to mythological beliefs which attribute mental illnesses to the presence of evil spirits or the like.

The World Health Organisation's Mental Health Gap Action Programme 2013-2020 indicates that mental, neurological and substance use disorders are common in all regions of the world affecting every community and age groups with most of the affected people belonging to low-income countries and asserts that with proper care, medication and psychological assistance, millions of peoples can be treated for depression, tendency for suicide and schizophrenia even with scarce resources. The neglect of nears and dears is thus making the issue of mental health care extremely important in the Indian scenario and an issue which has to be carefully and intelligently handled and given priority to on urgent basis. In such type of problems, there is an insidious and progressive decline in mental functions. While no cure exists, it is important to catch the ailment in its early stages and initiate certain measures. These include looking at patterned behavioural characteristics, setting routines for mundane tasks and certain medications. For the first time in India, mental health care is now a justiciable right following the enforcement of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. As a pressing need for the right to health movement in India, the law has recognized the right to access health care for citizens especially for mental health. More significantly, the Act guarantees right of access to every person of mental healthcare and treatment from mental health services run by the Government at an affordable cost as well as free mental healthcare to people living below the poverty line. Besides this, right to confidentiality in respect of mental health care treatment and right to free legal aid for exercising rights under the Act. While the present Act focuses mainly on the rights of persons in need of mental healthcare and their institutionalization but it lacks in providing for needs of the family and their contribution to treatments as well as the prevention aspect of mental illness and skill building among mental health care professionals. Probably, a more balanced Act is the need for the Indian scenario considering its social systems and constraints.


Keywords


Mental Health, Mental Health Survey, National Mental Health Survey, Mental Health Detoriation and Disorders, Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, Mental Health Act, 1987, Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, Central and State Mental Health Authorities.

References