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Lok Sabha discusses Mental Healthcare Bill, Congress extends support

By Newsd
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Source: udayavani

Terming it a patient-centric Bill, Union Health Minister JP Nadda on Friday introduced The Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016 in Lok Sabha.

The minister said that the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016, aims to provide for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and ensure these persons have the right to live a life with dignity by not being discriminated or harassed.

“The Bill assures that a person with mental illness has the right to live with dignity, and decriminalises suicide,” he said adding, “I think this is a very progressive bill.”

Supporting the bill, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said “We owe to it ourselves and the future of our society”.

“Colonial authorities just branded persons with mental illness as lunatics and confined them to a physical space. Inmates, particularly women and children, in mental health facilities are treated worse than animals,” he said referring to an UNHRC report.

He said that he has lived with a person with mental illness. “Mental health is an issue that is difficult to comprehend for many people,” he added.

He said educational institutions should hire professionals to help with the mental health of students. “We should also sensitise the media on how to report suicides. Police should be sensitised towards the issue of suicide. Attempted suicide should be seen as cry for help,” Tharoor said.

Tharoor also brings up the issue of lack of mental health professionals in the Armed Forces. “We cannot run the risk of one of our soldiers, a man with a gun, suffering from a mental illness. The Military has a crying need for treating post traumatic disorder,” he stated.

On 8 August, 2016, the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 was passed in the Rajya Sabha. When the bill passes in the Lok Sabha, it will replace the rather outdated Mental Health Act of 1987, and when compared to the existing law, it is definitely reformist.

One of the salient features of the new bill is that it decriminalises the attempt to suicide. This repeals Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code which provided for a year-long imprisonment for a failed suicide bid.

This law had been criticised for a very long time. In 1971, the Law Commission had tried to do away with it. The Janata Party had tried to implement the recommendation in 1978, but it fell before both the Houses could pass that Bill.

The new law actually recognises suicide as a cry for help, and stresses on the immediate need to reach out and help the person overcome their issues. It does not treat the person as a criminal.

The bill does not allow psychosurgery unless it is approved by the district medical board. The bill also bans the use of shock therapy for treating children with mental illness. It is still permissible for adults provided they’re given anaesthesia and necessary muscle relaxants.


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