The Mental Healthcare Bill Fails to Humanise How Mental Illness is Approached

Kalyani Badola, Amrita Gupta, Ruchi Bhargava | The Wire |16 December 2016

The Mental Healthcare Bill, 2013 has received a lot of attention since it was passed by the Rajya Sabha in August this year. In the Bill, provisions like decriminalisation of suicide, advance directives and nominated representatives introduce a rights-based approach for individuals. However, the Bill still operates on an individualised and medicalised paradigm of looking at mental health. This approach raises serious concerns as it overlooks the wider socio-cultural and psycho-social determinants that impact mental health.

The Bill has adopted a medicalised approach towards mental health by limiting itself to addressing healthcare services for persons with mental illness’. It, therefore, precludes a whole section of the population who may not have developeda 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’  but are progressing towards such conditions. Studies have indicated that women constitute a large proportion of this population and are currently ignored due to the limited understanding of mental illness. The non-gendered understanding of mental health limits the current Bill’s provisions for women to sections like personal hygiene to be ensured in a mental health institution and the time period within which the medical officer in a mental health establishment has to report to the concerned board after the admission of an afflicted woman.

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