Mental Healthcare Act, 2017

Feb 14th, 2021 | by  malvika singhal


When someone is suffering from a physical ailment, they are treated with care and affection. They are taken to the best doctors and given the best medication possible. As classified by the WHO, health includes physical, spiritual, and mental wellbeing. Every kind of ailment and disease is given top priority and sympathy except mental health. According to a study, over 300 million people suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and other mental ailments. In India itself, around 7.5% of Indians suffer from mental disorders and this number is likely to go up to 20% at the end of this year. There is a lot of stigmas attached to mental health in the Indian society. People suffering from mental disorders do not talk about their problems because of the stigma attached. All around the world the concerned authorities are trying their best to spread awareness about mental health issues and change the mindset of society. The global suicide rates are increasing every day causing major concern. Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 has made "attempt to suicide" a punishable offence. The section states that a person who survives the act of killing themselves is punishable with imprisonment that may extend to one year or fine. The section in itself is so strange in the sense that you are punishing someone who is already suffering a lot. The issues related to mental health and increasing suicide rates need to be addressed.
Therefore, in the year 2017, the Parliament of India passed The Mental Healthcare Act. It decriminalizes suicide and offers help to people with mental disorders.

What is The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 about?

There was a need to address the issue of Mental Health in India considering the stigma attached to it. The Act has done away with the decade-old penal provision of "attempt to suicide". It provides healthcare facilities to those suffering from mental health issues to the point that they decide to take their lives. The Act is the beginning of recognition of rights of people suffering from mental issues and it is in accordance with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and The Mental Healthcare Act of 1987.

The Act has defined mental illness as under:

“ a substantial disorder of thinking, mood and perception, orientation, or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognize reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs. But it doesn’t regard mental retardation, a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, especially characterized by subnormality of intelligence”

Rights of people suffering from mental illness

The Constitution of India gives equal rights to every person and they all deserve to live with dignity and peace. People with mental illness need it more than anything. The Act has specified the important provisions for the same as under:

  1. It has made it clear that every person has a right to receive mental healthcare and treatment for mental illness and it will be provided free of cost for those who cannot afford.
  2. There will be no discrimination among the persons on basis of religion, caste, gender, race, place of birth as also mentioned in Article 15 of the Constitution. 
  3. The name of such person and everything related to their mental health treatment will be kept confidential and the same cannot be given to media or any other person except for the situations mentioned in the Act.
  4. The Act has not taken away any power of decision by such a person. Any adult who is suffering from mental illness, if capable, can write an advance directive stating how they want to be treated or taken care of and the same is required to be certified by a medical practitioner or Mental Health Board.
  5. It has made it a right of every person to be entitled to get mental healthcare and the governments of the concerned states shall fund the same.
  6. The Act has given enough power to the Centre and the State Government to establish Central and State Mental Health Authorities at national and state level respectively.
  7. A Mental Health Review Board will be constituted to protect the rights of persons with mental illness and manage advance directives.
  8. The Act also specifies the procedure for admission, treatment, and discharge of mentally- ill individuals.
  9. There are some pre-notions about mental health treatment and conventional ways that make people resist electric convulsive therapy without any muscle relaxers and the minors will not be given such therapy at all.
  10. The medical practitioners will be protected against all unforeseen events.

Main Highlight of the Act

The Act has decriminalized "attempt to suicide" which is governed by section 309 of the IPC. The person who has committed suicide and survived shall not be punished, instead be provided with a healthcare facility. In section 115(1) 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 Appropriate Government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment, and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide.

This has led to a change in the way people looked at those who are suicidal with more empathy. 



malvika singhal

malvika singhal

A keen learner

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