• What Are The Implications Of The Mental Healthcare Bill?

    The Mental Healthcare Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday. It’s an important step in recognising need for the country to address issues linked to mental health. One of the key provisions under the bill is the decriminalisation of suicide.

    PROVISIONS OF THE BILL

    Here’s a brief overview of the provisions of the bill:

    1. First, the bill states that every person will have the right to access mental healthcare from services operated by the government. It provides the right to equality of treatment.

    2. Second, mentally-ill persons will have their own say in how they want to be treated for the illness and who should be their nominated representative. The directive will have to be approved by a medical practitioner.

    3. Every mental health establishment has to be registered with the Central or State Mental Health Authority.

    4. A Mental Health Review Commission and Board shall be set up. It will advise the government on the rights of the mentally ill.

    5. Most importantly, the bill decriminalises suicide and prohibits electroconvulsive therapy.

    A Good First Step:

    We asked a few mental health professionals what they thought of the bill. Dr Seema Hingorany, Trauma Specialist and Clinical Psychologist, said mental health professionals are elated that the bill has been passed.

    The whole system traumatises them further, gives them no hope and exaggerates everything, compelling them to try suicide again, says Dr Seema Hingorany

    “We mental health professionals are euphoric. When a suicide attempt is happening, nobody understands the circumstances. It is a traumatic situation and on top of that, the person has to deal with the police. We need to look towards treating patients with human understanding and counselling. Clients have reported that after an attempt, they face a lot of fear and too many questions from the police and neighbours etc. The whole system traumatises them further, gives them no hope and exaggerates everything, compelling them to try suicide again.”

    She says that the bill is the first step towards mental health being taken as seriously as physical health.

    Mental Health and Women:

    The bill states that there shall be no discrimination against anyone who wants to avail of mental health treatment.

    According to a report by Human Rights Watch, women are doubly susceptible to the fallout of mental illnesses because of their lower status in a patriarchal society. The study shows how women in mental health facilities are given forced treatment — such as electroconvulsive therapy. They are also exposed to physical, verbal and sexual violence in mental health institutes.

    Women are sometimes forcefully incarcerated. Husbands and in-laws sometimes forge madness certificates in order to force women out of their homes.

    If a woman is actually mentally ill, she is ostracised because she can no longer be the caregiver and take care of her family. She is treated as a burden. 

    Suicide shows high stress and is a cry for life education, support and care rather than a need to punish, says Ameeta Sanghavi Shah

    Dr Anjali Chabbria tells SheThePeople.TV that women are more likely to try and attempt suicide than men are. “Women are often suppressed — even if they are earning, they are not making decisions. A woman attempts suicide, often as a cry for help.”

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    The Next Step is Suicide Prevention:

    Ameeta Sanghavi Shah, Soul Mind Body and Relationship Therapist, tells SheThePeople.TV that the move is long overdue.

    “Suicide shows high stress and is a cry for life education, support and care rather than a need to punish,” she says.

    She says that the next step, and even more important step, is spreading suicide-related awareness. “As a family, society, educational system and government, are we listening to stresses & attitudes before it gets to that point?”

    “Empowering people with attitudes and with welfare and efficient legal redressal resources in organizations and in society can prevent people from feeling that this is the only way to get attention for their concerns and stresses.”

    She says that one cannot understand suicide one dimensionally, as it was before it was decriminalised. The person attempting suicide could be from very differing contexts, and you cannot put all suicides in one bag, she says.

    Image Credit: RoarLK

    Also Read: Depression in Teenage Girls Rising: Study