The Mental Health Care Act 2017

The Indian Mental Healthcare Act 2017 strives to rectify years of wrongdoing against those who have a mental illness challenged and also overturns, in the process, the archaic Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (which criminalises attempted suicide).  The Act, which received President of India’s Assent on 7th April 2017, has been enacted to protect, promote and fulfill rights of persons with mental illness related to mental healthcare and services and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Some of the relevant provisions of the Act have been compiled, summarised and classified below:

Rights of Persons with Mental illness

Right to make an Advance Directive

A person shall have the right to make an advance directive (which is not violative of any law of the land) stating how to be treated and how not to be treated for the illness during a mental health situation. (Sections 5 to 13)

Right to appoint a Nominated Representative

A person shall have the right to appoint a nominated representative to take on his/her behalf, all health related decisions (Sections 14 to 17)

Right to access mental health care

A person shall have the right to access to mental health care, treatment and services run or funded by the Government which are affordable, of good quality, in sufficient quantity, available nearby and without any discrimination (Section 18.1 &2)

Right to free services

A Person with Mental Illness (PMI) living below poverty line, a destitute or a homeless, shall get free treatment at state run or funded health establishments. (Section 18.7)

Right to get quality services

The mental health services made available to PMI by the state shall be of the same quality as of general health services. (Section 18.8)

Right to get free medicines

All medicines on the essential drug list shall be made available to PMIs free of cost at the establishments run or funded by the government.

Right to community living

A PMI shall have the right to live in the community and be part of and not segregated from society (Section 19.1)

Right to protection from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment

Every PMI shall be protected from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in any mental health establishment (MHE). (Section 20.2)

Right to live in an environment, safe and hygienic, having basic amenities

Every PMI admitted in an MHE shall have a right to safe and hygienic living environment, proper  sanitation and facilities for leisure, recreation, education, religious practices and privacy

(Section 20.2.b, c & d)

Right to clothing

Every PMI living in a MHE shall have a right to proper and dignified clothing which prevents exposure (Section 20.2.e)

Right to refuse work and get paid for the work done

No PMI shall be forced to work in an MHE and those who agree to work shall be paid appropriate remuneration for the work done. (Section 20.2.f)

Right to protection

A PMI shall have protection from all forms of physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse (Section 20 k)

Right to legal aid

A PMI shall be entitled to receive free legal services to exercise his/her rights available under the Act.  (27.1)

Prohibited Procedures/ Practices and Restrictions

No tonsuring

No PMI in an MHE shall be subjected to compulsory tonsuring. (20.2.i)

No compulsion to wear uniforms

A PMI shall not be forced to wear uniform provided by the MHE. (Section 20.2.j)

No discrimination.

There shall be no discrimination on any basis including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability. (21.1.a)

No Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) without anesthesia

ECT shall not be performed without the use of muscle relaxants and anesthesia. (Section 95.1.a)

Restriction on Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) for minors

ECT shall not be performed on minors. In exceptional cases it may be done after getting informed consent of the guardian and prior permission of the Board. (Section 95.1.b and 95.2.)

No sterilization

Sterilization of men or women, intended as a treatment for mental illness, shall not be done.

(Section 95.1.c)

No mechanical restrains

There shall be no chaining a person with mental illness, in any manner or form. (Section 95.1.d)

Restriction on Psychosurgery

Psychosurgery shall not be performed as a treatment for mental illness without obtaining the informed consent of the patient and approval from the Board, (Section 96.1)

Restriction on physical restraints

Physical restrains shall be used sparingly, only when absolutely needed, and are deemed as the least restrictive method. (Section 97.1)

No solitary confinement

Seclusion and solitary confinement is totally banned. (Section 97.1)

Miscellaneous Provisions

A small child to stay with inpatient mother

A woman receiving institutional care shall ordinarily not be separated from her child if the child is below the age of three. (Section 21.2)

Insurance cover for mental illness

Every insurer shall make provision for treatment of mental illness at par with provisions made for physical illness. (Section 21.4)mental illness

Emergency Treatment

Any Registered Medical Practitioner can initiate emergency treatment to any person with mental illness if there is threat to self, others, objects or property. (Section 94.1)

Protection to homeless persons with mental illness

Officer I/C of a police station shall take under protection any person found wandering at large within the limits of the police station if he/she appears to be with mental illness and is incapable of taking care of himself/herself. (Section 100.1.a)

Attempt to commit suicide not an offense

A person who attempts to commit suicide will be presumed to be “suffering from severe stress’’ and shall not be and shall not be subjected to any investigation or prosecution. (Section 115.1)

Persons with mental illness and their families should keep a copy of the Act at home for ready reference and for detailed reading.

Links to the Act:

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