The Mental Health Care Bill, 2016: Assured Mental Healthcare With Dignity

4 minutes

On March 27, 2017, the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016 was passed in India. This progressive act aims to provide for mental health care and services for people with mental illness. It protects them against discrimination or harassment, and promotes and fulfils their rights to live a life with dignity.

This bill allows mentally ill people the right to restrict the release of information with respect to their illness. They can also complain about deficiencies in the provision of services.

Here’s all you need to know about the Mental Health Bill:

1. Right to access mental health care:

The bill ensures that every individual has the right to access mental health care and treatment from government approved organisations. It also assures free treatment to the homeless and those Below the Poverty Line.  

2. Right to live with dignity:

Every individual with mental illness will have the right to live with dignity. They will not be discriminated against on the basis of gender, sex, sexual orientation, culture, caste, religion, social or political beliefs, disability or class.

3. Right to confidentiality:

Those with mental illness have the right to confidentiality with respect to mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare. No information or photograph pertaining to the individuals with mental illness can be released to media without their consent.

4. Right to make an advance directive:

Every individual, except minors, shall have the right to make an advance directive in writing regarding their care and treatment for their mental illness. They can also specify the things which should not be done during the treatment. They can nominate representatives for themselves.

5. Right to information:

A person with a mental illness shall have the right to information regarding the nature of their mental illness. The process of treatment and their known side effects must be informed to the person with the mental illness and/or his nominated representative.

6. Right to access medical records:

Any person with mental illness shall have the right to access their medical records. The mental health professional in charge can withhold certain information only if the disclosure would result in serious mental harm to the individual.

7. Right to personal contacts and communication:

Any person with mental illness admitted to a mental health establishment shall have the right to refuse or receive visitors. They are allowed to send and receive e-mails and refuse, receive or make telephone or mobile phone calls.

8. Right to legal aid:

A person with mental illness shall be entitled to receive free legal services to exercise any of his rights given under this Act.

9. Decriminalisation of suicide:

Any person attempting suicide will be presumed to be suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code. “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code,” the Mental Healthcare Bill states.

10. Treatment & procedure to be followed:

A minor with mental illness shall not be subjected to electro-convulsive therapy. Also, any person with mental illness shall not be subjected to electro-convulsive therapy without the use of muscle relaxant and anaesthesia. They will not be chained in any manner or form irrespective of any circumstances.

Apart from these, the Bill empowers the government to set up a Central Mental Health Authority at the national-level and a State Mental Health Authority in every State. The mental health establishments and practitioners including clinical psychologists, mental health nurses and psychiatric social workers will be registered with this Authority. A Mental Health Review Board will be constituted to protect the rights of a person with mental illness and manage advance directives.

Though mental healthcare in India still has a long way to go, YourDOST supports this progressive step taken by the Government of India. Let’s work together to make this country a happier place!

Are you someone who has gone through a difficult phase and emerged stronger and better, with some professional help? Share your story with us to encourage thousands of others who might be struggling. Click here to submit your story.


Team YourDOST

YourDOST is an Online Emotional Wellness Coach. Through YourDOST anyone can Sign Up and anonymously seek advice and guidance from Counsellors, Psychologists, Special Friends, Mentors and other experienced individuals.