mid-day editorial: Ensure a clean Bill of mental health

By  mid-day correspondent | Posted  30-Mar-2017

Almost all headlines on the Mental Healthcare Bill 2016, which was passed in the Lok Sabha, focused on the fact that it decriminalises suicide. But it’s time to look at the bigger picture when it comes to mental well-being.

The Bill provides for healthcare services for people with mental illnesses. It also has a provision to protect and restore the property rights of the mentally unstable. While in the current Bill, the focus is on the community, it also ensures that every patient will enjoy the right to access mental healthcare and treatment at government institutions.

But all Bills, across the world, should be accompanied by a change in attitude of the masses. While this Bill certainly empowers the mentally ill in some ways, it should try to ensure they don’t suffer from neglect.

Often, in our country, people seek help from self-styled spiritual gurus, rather than reach out to doctors, when faced with mental problems. The shame and stigma surrounding mental health prevents many from seeking recourse for their problems from professionals.

In a welcome move, schools have introduced a counselling system to address stress on individuals from a tender age. There’s also greater recognition of learning disabilities than there was earlier. But, it’s the way we deal with these shortcomings that needs to change.

The Bill is a welcome one because we inhabit a way more complicated world now. But, its ultimate aim must be to banish shame, stigma and misconceptions about mental illnesses. The bigger picture does not only feature suicides, it features people who may be suffering due to the insensitivity of the society. Let the Bill cover the mental patients, while factoring in the attitude of people towards them. Uncover the realities of charlatan and caregivers too.

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