Mental Healthcare Bill to decriminalise suicide

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ParliamentThe long awaited Mental Healthcare Bill 2016 was passed by the parliament on March 27. The bill was already been passed in the Rajya Sabha last year.

The passage of the bill is a huge step as a lot of stigma is attached to mental illness in the country. The bill decriminalises suicides and also provides for the right to better healthcare for people suffering from mental illness. The bill also provides free treatment for the mentally ill if they are poor or fall into the category of Below Poverty Line (BPL) even if they do not possess a BPL card.

The bill defines mental illness as “a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol or drugs. The bill does not include mental retardation which is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, specially characterised by subnormality of intelligence”

According to the bill, healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation will be provided to the people suffering from mental illness “in a manner that it doesn’t intrude on their rights and dignity.”

The bill says that every person shall have the right to live with dignity and there shall be no discrimination against such person on any basis. In addition, a person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare.

“This bill compels the state to have a mental health programme, it empowers the individual,” said Health Minister J.P. Nadda said in Lok Sabha.

“If the person requires legal aid, treatment or drugs, we have made provision for all of this. Another major point is to manage it there will be state and central board, and also boards at district level. Caregivers at community level will also be identified,” he added.

The Bill separates attempt to suicide from the Indian Penal Code.

According to the bill, 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 existing Section 309 of the IPC.