Depression, stress, anxiety, suicide — these words have become colloquial in the urban dictionary and are often used frivolously, by the media, cinema, and in daily conversations. However, the gravity of mental illness is rarely comprehended by the masses.
According to an India Spend report, the number of Indians suffering from mental illness exceeds that of the population of South Africa. At present, the mentally ill account for nearly 6.5 percent of the country’s population and it is estimated that by 2020 this number will increase to a staggering 20 percent. Further, the World Health Organisation estimates that nearly 57 million Indians suffer from depression.
Relationship between psychiatry and law most often comes into play at the time of treatment of person with mental illness. Treatment of mentally unfit person often involves curtailment of personal liberty of psychiatric patients. Most of the countries in the World have laws regulating treatment of psychiatric patients. Though there are elaborate descriptions of various forms of mental disorders in various treatises in Ayurveda, the care of mentally ill in the asylums in India is a British innovation. After the takeover of the administration of India by the British crown in 1858, a large number of laws were enacted in quick succession for controlling the care and treatment of mentally ill persons in British India but till the date the illness is considered as a stigma.
Although there are known, effective treatments for depression, fewer than half of those affected in the world (in many countries, fewer than 10%) receive such treatments, added the WHO report. Barriers to effective care include lack of resources, dearth of trained health-care providers, and social stigma associated with mental disorders. India, for instance, has less than 4,000 psychiatrists to treat its mentally ill people.
There is no insurance coverage for a person with a mental disorder. The WHO Mental Health Atlas 2011 states that the government’s expenditure on mental health in was only 0.06% of the total health budget. The country has only 0.301 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. Treatment at the hospitals too leaves much to be desired. “The focus is too much on medication.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also called on people to change the society’s mindset about the menace of “depression” and to encourage its victims to speak up.
“We are aware about depression. However, it is true that those suffering from depression are not forthcoming to share their experience with others because he or she feels ashamed to do so. We should change this and encourage them to speak and share their burden,” Modi said during his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio address.
In an effort to curb this growing illness and create a conducive environment to address the mental well-being of the public, the Government of India repealed the archaic 1987 Act and passed the Mental Health Care Bill, 2016, in the Lok Sabha.
The Bill guarantees a right of affordable, accessible and quality mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by Central and State governments. The Bill also makes provision for a range of services to be provided by the appropriate government. The Standing Committee report recommended allocation of funds to states noting that without such allocation, states facing financial constraints will not be able to implement the bill.
Special provisions for women and health are there in the Bill, including not separating women from their children unless absolutely necessary.
“If a child has to be separated from the mother, a reason has to be provided. This Bill is mother-centric, human-centric.”
Children will not be given electric therapy and even in adults, it must be given under anaesthesia and with muscle relaxants.
Among the various objectives, the Bill provides for ensuring healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental illness “in a manner that does not intrude on their rights and dignity.
- LAWZ BUREAU