Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Understanding India’s Mental Healthcare Act, 2017


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mental Healthcare Act, 2017

Mains level: Not Much


Central idea: The article discusses the challenges faced in implementing India’s Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 and the need for better mental healthcare services in the country.

Mental Healthcare Act, 2017

The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 is a comprehensive legislation that provides for the protection and promotion of the rights of people with mental illness.  Some of the key features of the Act are:

  • Decriminalization of suicide: The Act decriminalizes suicide and prohibits the use of inhuman and degrading treatment towards those who attempt suicide.
  • Advance directives: The Act allows individuals to make advance directives, specifying the type of treatment they would like to receive in the event of a mental health issue.
  • Informed consent: The Act mandates that patients have the right to give or refuse consent to treatment, and to be informed about the benefits, side effects, and alternatives of the treatment.
  • Mental health review boards: The Act establishes Mental Health Review Boards at the national and state levels to oversee the implementation of the Act and protect the rights of people with mental illness.
  • Prohibition of inhuman treatment: The Act prohibits the use of inhuman treatment methods, including chaining, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) without anaesthesia, and solitary confinement.
  • Right to access mental healthcare: The Act guarantees the right to access mental healthcare services, and mandates the establishment of mental health services in every district.
  • Protection of rights and dignity: The Act aims to protect the rights and dignity of people with mental illness, and prohibits discrimination and stigmatization on the basis of mental illness.
  • Establishment of a Central Mental Health Authority: The Act establishes a Central Mental Health Authority to regulate mental health services in the country.

NHRC flags alert

  • Pity over healthcare institution: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in a report flagged the “inhuman and deplorable” condition of all 46 government-run mental healthcare institutions across the country.
  • Prolonged hospitalization: The report notes that the facilities are “illegally” keeping patients long after their recovery, in what is an “infringement of the human rights of mentally ill patients”.
  • Need for Assessment: These observations were made after visits to all operational government facilities, to assess the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 (MHA).

Major issue: Lack of implementation

  • Despite the act’s provisions, mental health institutions in India have been plagued by a lack of adequate infrastructure, staff, and training.
  • Patients have reported human rights violations, including abuse, neglect, and violence.

Need for effective implementation

  • The Mental Healthcare Act needs effective implementation and oversight to ensure that patients receive the care and treatment they need with dignity and respect.
  • This requires increased investment in mental health infrastructure, including facilities, staff, and training.

Way forward

  • Ensuring proper implementation of the Act: There is a need for proper implementation of this act across the country, with a focus on ensuring the rights and dignity of patients in mental healthcare institutions.
  • Increasing awareness: Awareness needs to be raised about the Act, and the rights of mental healthcare patients among the general public, healthcare professionals, and law enforcement agencies.
  • Providing training and capacity building: Healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and caregivers, need to be trained and equipped with the skills and knowledge to provide quality care and support to mental healthcare patients.
  • Strengthening mental healthcare infrastructure: There is a need to strengthen the infrastructure and facilities in mental healthcare institutions, including better staffing, improved physical facilities, and access to quality medication.
  • Encouraging community-based care: Community-based care for mental health patients can help reduce the burden on mental healthcare institutions and provide a more supportive environment for patients.
  • Promoting human rights: There is a need for greater emphasis on the human rights of mental healthcare patients, including the right to dignity, privacy, and freedom from discrimination and abuse.


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