Mental Health Care Bill and the need for Mental Well-Being

Health has always been a matter of great concern and the recently framed National Healthcare Policy goes to prove that right. But, sadly, not much importance has been given to the topic of mental well-being, because of the social taboos and stigmas attached to it. Especially, in a country with a spiralling population and grossly insufficient medical attention, the need to address pressing medical and health related issues is always a top priority. Hence the Mental Health Care Bill that was recently passed in Rajya Sabha has been well received by the general public and the health care providers. In fact, Mental Health is the focus at the World Health Day on April 7th, this year.

Here are the salient features of the Mental Health Care Bill:

    1. Assures every person the right to access mental health care and treatment from health services run or funded by the Govt.
    2. The bill assures free treatment for mentally-ill persons if they are homeless or poor, even if they do not possess a Below Poverty Line card.
    3. The bill has a “patient-centric” approach with the aim of increasing participation of service users.
    4. “Suicide is a mental disease. It will not be a criminal act, it will be decriminalised. It recognises that it is done under severe mental stress,” J P Nadda said.
    5. The bill also provides that a person with mental illness will have the right to make an advance directive in writing specifying the way the person wishes to be cared for and treated for a mental illness.
    6. The Mental Healthcare Bill recognises the role of caregivers as those who can be appointed as a nominated representative of a mentally ill person, members of the Central Mental Health Authority and State Mental Health Authorities, or members of Mental Health Review Boards.
    7. The Mental Healthcare Bill also provides mentally ill people, a right to confidentiality in respect of mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare. Photographs or any other information pertaining to the person cannot be released to the media without the consent of the person with mental illness.
    8. The government will set up a Central Mental Health Authority at the national level and a State Mental Health Authority in every state. Every mental health institute and mental health practitioners including clinical psychologists, mental health nurses and psychiatric social workers will have to be registered with this Authority.
    9. A Mental Health Review Board will be constituted to protect the rights of persons with mental illness and manage advance directives.
    10. Under the Mental Healthcare Bill, the punishment for flouting of provisions will attract up to six months in prison or Rs 10,000 fine or both. Repeat offenders can face up to two years in jail or a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh or both.

Recently, the Prime Minister even addressed the nation on the topic of mental wellness in his “Mann Ki Baat”. Here’s a summary of what he spoke on this topic:

Depression can be the root cause of many mental and physical ailments. Just as diabetes can be the root cause of all sorts of diseases, depression too, destroys all our abilities to sustain, to fight, to display courage and to take a decision. Your friends, your family, your surroundings, and environment, all these can prevent you from going into depression and if you unfortunately, has gone into it, they can also pull you out of it. There is another way. If you are unable to express yourself to your family and friends, then do one thing, go out in society with a sense of service. Devote yourself with all your heart into helping others and sharing their joys and sorrows. You will find that along with it your own inner sufferings will go on disappearing. If you try to sympathise with the sufferings of others with a sense of service, a new self-confidence will be born within you. By connecting with others, serving them and serving them selflessly, you will easily be able to shed the weight oppressing your own heart and mind.

Yoga too is a good means for mental wellbeing. Yoga helps in relieving tension and stress, and leads one towards a happy state of mind. 21st June is the International Day of Yoga. This will be the third year of its observance. You all should start preparing for it right away. Collective Yoga festivals should be celebrated with the participation of millions.