The Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the Mental Health Care Bill 2016, which seeks to provide better healthcare to people with mental illness and safeguard their rights. Though the bill is definitely an improvement from the older version of it, it seems that the authorities are at last waking up to provide a healthy environment to all those suffering from mental illness. They have finally adhered to the need of protecting people reeling under the illness, though it was long overdue, its occurrence doesn’t go unappreciated.
Around 6-7 percent of the country’s population suffered from some kind of mental illnesses, while 1-2 percent suffer from acute mental disease. But, will the Bill be of any help do those in distress?
There are many good points in the new Bill. Important ones include- decriminalization of suicide, and giving a person the right to select a representative who would speak for the person if she or he gets diagnosed with a mental illness. Also, an advance directive has been created on the mode of how a person would like to be treated or hospitalized. The Bill also bans the use of electric shock therapy for treating children, while it can be used on adults after they have been given required amount of anaesthesia and muscle relaxants.
Finally, and most importantly the Bill provides for ensuring healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation of person with the illness, in a manner that does not intrude on their rights and dignity. While the Bill aims to promote community healthcare, several distressing loopholes exists.
While it is now illegal to administer electroshock therapy to children, it is still allowed on adults, albeit with humane muscle relaxants and anaesthesia. Really? Is this the help the patient should look forward to?
Further dwelling into the Bill, it would be a task for the government to ensure availability of medical staff which is required to give correct and required help to all impacted. Hopefully, the Bill will encourage more mental health hospitals and institutions. However, amidst the presence of indifferent staff, rampant overmedication of patients, how will more facilities help? Will they reduce such an occurrence, or further exaggerate it?
As per my viewpoints, there should be a reform of the existing institutions, with art therapy, music therapy, and more. There should be a move towards integrating psychiatry with mainstream hospitals, with Psychiatry being just another wing, like Cardiac, or ENT, etc. There should be a coherent move towards recovery, rehabilitation and engagement with community. More institutions create a divisive world, not an inclusive one. More institutions perpetuate labelling and stigma, and such an attitude must be reformed first, post this we can have more psychiatric institutes to sprout up.
The government though initiated the journey, it’s the duty of a normal citizen to halt such corrupt practices which hampers someone’s life. With this Bill, the government has managed to bring the topic into discussion, but there’s still a really long way to go. From protecting the patients and giving them apt facilities to avoid victims of such asylum culture.