India Passes New Mental Health Care Bill

17 Aug 2016 - 12:00

On 8 August 2016 the Rajya Sabha, India’s Council of States and the upper house of its parliament, made a decision that is to greatly impact mental health care in the country. The Mental Health Care Bill – 2013 was introduced on 19 August 2013 and just shy of three years later, it’s been passed by the Rajya Sabha. Pending its passing by the parliament’s lower house, the Lok Sabha, this bill will repeal the Mental Health Act of 1987 and decriminalise attempts to commit suicide.

PRIME Research Director Prof Vikram Patel told The Indian Express: “I am happy that at last an archaic law which stigmatised people already facing severe social problems or mental health problems that drove them to take the extreme step, has been decriminalised. I hope that this is only the first step in a major reform of India’s mental health care system, as mandated both by the Bill and the National Mental Health Policy in bringing mental health out of the shadows of our society.”

Prof Patel as well as PRIME India’s Principal Investigator, Dr Rahul Shidhaye, deposed in front of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on their views about the recently passed bill.

“Conceptually this [the 2013 bill] is a very different bill. In the previous Act, the emphasis was to protect society from the mentally ill and so the emphasis was largely on coercive, involuntary treatment of people with mental illnesses, barring them from a variety of civic spaces and rights. Now, the emphasis of this bill is highlighting the rights of the mentally ill and protecting them from abuse and discrimination,” Prof Patel told Scroll.in.

A short summary of the bill is available here.

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