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World Mental Health Day: Activists question new mental health bill to be proposed


Shalini,CNN-IBN
Nov 01, 2012 at 11:22am IST

New Delhi: A new mental health bill will soon be presented to the Cabinet for approval. But activists say the bill is only an eyewash. India has the highest suicide rates in the world, said a Lancet study. 10 per cent adult Indians have mental health disorders, according to the World Health Organisation and an estimated 1 million Indians are in need of mental health services. 25 years since the mental health act of 1987 came into being, a new Mental Health Care Bill will soon be presented to the Cabinet for approval.

The bill promises big reforms, even proposing to decriminalising attempts to suicide and ensuring to do away with inhuman practices such as chaining patients. But mental health activists are alleging that this is not enough. Disability Rights Activist Javed Abidi said, "The mental health act is draconian. The first big issue is of legal capacity in cases of treatment without consent and secondly, the bill encourages mental health institutes."

The Union Health Ministry, though, has refuted these allegations. Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Sujaya Krishnan said, "It's not draconian, it's pro-rights, pro-poor. The new bill gives rights to the patients and we are definitely not chaining people."

But for people like Bhargavi Davar, a mental health patient and an activist herself, the bill definitely has loopholes, at the patient's end. "Robbing all personal rights - treatment, hospital, indefinite stay - laws make the individual more vulnerable," Bhargavi said. With India being home to 30 to 40 million people living with psychosocial disabilities, the bill needs a wider debate before it is adopted.

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