The Pressing Needs of Mental Health Care and Indian Legal Scenario
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.
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- Act 10 of 2017 passed on 7th May 2017.
- Section 2 (3), Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
- Id., Section 3.
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- Id., Section 33 – 44.
- Id., Chapter VIII.
- Id., Section 65.
- Id., Section 2 (r).
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