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Int J Law Psychiatry. 2019 Jan - Feb;62:169-178. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2018.08.002. Epub 2018 Aug 16.

India's Mental Healthcare Act, 2017: Content, context, controversy.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, Tallaght University Hospital, Dublin D24 NR0A, Ireland. Electronic address: duffyrm@tcd.ie.
2
Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, Tallaght University Hospital, Dublin D24 NR0A, Ireland. Electronic address: brendan.kelly@tcd.ie.

Abstract

India's new mental health legislation, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, was commenced on 29 May 2018 and seeks explicitly to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It grants a legally binding right to mental healthcare to over 1.3 billion people, one sixth of the planet's population. Key measures include (a) new definitions of 'mental illness' and 'mental health establishment'; (b) revised consideration of 'capacity' in relation to mental healthcare (c) 'advance directives' to permit persons with mental illness to direct future care; (d) 'nominated representatives', who need not be family members; (e) the right to mental healthcare and broad social rights for the mentally ill; (f) establishment of governmental authorities to oversee services; (g) Mental Health Review Boards to review admissions and other matters; (h) revised procedures for 'independent admission' (voluntary admission), 'supported admission' (admission and treatment without patient consent), and 'admission of minor'; (i) revised rules governing treatment, restraint and research; and (j) de facto decriminalization of suicide. Key challenges relate to resourcing both mental health services and the new structures proposed in the legislation, the appropriateness of apparently increasingly legalized approaches to care (especially the implications of potentially lengthy judicial proceedings), and possible paradoxical effects resulting in barriers to care (e.g. revised licensing requirements for general hospital psychiatry units). There is ongoing controversy about specific measures (e.g. the ban on electro-convulsive therapy without muscle relaxants and anaesthesia), reflecting a need for continued engagement with stakeholders including patients, families, the Indian Psychiatric Society and non-governmental organisations. Despite these challenges, the new legislation offers substantial potential benefits not only to India but, by example, to other countries that seek to align their laws with the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and improve the position of the mentally ill.

KEYWORDS:

Human rights; India; Legislation; Mental capacity; Mental disorder; Mental health

PMID:
30122262
DOI:
10.1016/j.ijlp.2018.08.002

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