Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 is an Act to provide for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of such persons during delivery of mental healthcare and services and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The Act repeals the Mental Health Act, 1987. The Mental Healthcare Act came into operation on 7 April, 2017.
Definition of Mental illness
The term Mental Illness in MHA 2017 is given an elaborate definition which was lacked by the previous act of 1987 in which mental illness was defined as any mental disorder and seldom as mental retardation, it is now defined in section 2 under the act according to which mental illness indicates a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or thought that seriously impairs behaviour, capacity to recognise reality, or ability to meet daily needs; mental conditions linked to the degradation of alcohol and drugs; but does not constitute a mental barrier, which is a state of a person's mind that has not developed normally or at all, often characterised by knowledge that is below average.
Key provisions of the Act
Rights of persons with mental illness: Every person shall have the right to access mental health care and treatment from services run or funded by the government. The right to access mental health care includes affordable, good quality of and easy access to services. Persons with mental illness also have the right to equality of treatment, protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, free legal services, access to their medical records, and complain regarding deficiencies in provision of mental health care. The provisions include the following.
Section 18. Right to access mental healthcare.
Section 19. Right to community living.
Section 20. Right to protection from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Section 21. Right to equality and non-discrimination.
Section 22. Right to information.
Section 23. Right to confidentiality.
Section 24. Restriction on release of information in respect of mental illness.
Section 25. Right to access medical records.
Section 26. Right to personal contacts and communication.
Section 27. Right to legal aid.
Section 28. Right to make complaints about deficiencies in provision of services.
Advance Directive: A mentally-ill person shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he wants to be treated for the illness during a mental health situation and who his nominated representative shall be. The advance directive has to be certified by a medical practitioner or registered with the Mental Health Board. If a mental health professional/ relative/care-giver does not wish to follow the directive while treating the person, he can make an application to the Mental Health Board to review/alter/cancel the advance directive.
Mental health related administative bodies - Central and State Mental Health Authority: These are administrative bodies that are required to
register, supervise and maintain a register of all mental health establishments,
develop quality and service provision norms for such establishments,
maintain a register of mental health professionals,
train law enforcement officials and mental health professionals on the provisions of the Act,
receive complaints about deficiencies in provision of services, and
advise the government on matters relating to mental health.
Mental Health Establishments: In the past, mental health facilities solely featured hospitals and nursing homes for those with mental illnesses. Later, under the Act, establishments for Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy were also included and were under government administration. Additionally, it says that the Act requires all mental health facilities to register with the appropriate central or state mental health authority. The Center and state-level medical institutes have a responsibility to keep track of people who are mentally ill and receiving medical treatment. A list of the professionals who are professionally qualified to deliver healthcare must be kept up to date by the state authority. These establishments must meet specific requirements as listed in the Act in order to register.
Mental Health Review Commission and Board: The Mental Health Review Commission will be a quasi-judicial body that will periodically review the use of and the procedure for making advance directives and advise the government on protection of the rights of mentally ill persons. The Commission shall with the concurrence of the state governments, constitute Mental Health Review Boards in the districts of a state. The Board will have the power to
register, review/alter/cancel an advance directive,
appoint a nominated representative,
adjudicate complaints regarding deficiencies in care and services,
receive and decide application from a person with mental illness/his nominated representative/any other interested person against the decision of medical officer or psychiatrists in charge of a mental health establishment.
Decriminalising suicide and prohibiting electro-convulsive therapy: A person who attempts suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code. Electro-convulsive therapy is allowed only with the use of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia. The therapy is prohibited for minors.
Penalties and offences : Any infringement of a provision under this Act is punishable by a six-month prison sentence, a Rs. 10,000 fine, or both. Repeat offenders may face a further two years in prison, a fine ranging from 50,000 to 5 lakh rupees, or both.