Attempting suicide is no longer a criminal offense in India
On May 29, Union Health Ministry notified Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, that decriminalizes suicide attempt in India. The law was passed in Parliament, a year ago. Union health minister JP Nadda had, last year, said the bill recognizes a person attempting suicide must be under extreme stress, hence no IPC sections should be invoked. To such people, the government is liable to provide healthcare.
Suicide rates in India a commentary of ignored mental illness
According to National Crime Records Bureau, 371 people commit suicides in India daily. The 2015 data of NCRB (the latest available) concluded, every hour, one student took their lives in the country. At any given time approximately 36% of Indian population suffers from depression, suggested a WHO report. Thankfully, the new act takes progressive steps to fight stigma around mental health.
Mental Healthcare Bill prohibits discrimination of patients
The Mental Healthcare Act gives patients right to a dignified life and prohibits discrimination with them on any basis. It also ensures access to healthcare of mentally ill people; the cost of which will be taken care of by the government in case of BPL patients (even if they don't have a card). The bill also gives patients the right to confidentiality.
Thankfully, the Act stops shock therapy, chaining of patients
Further, the bill ends the inhumane treatment meted to mentally-ill children and bans shock therapy for them. In case of adults too, the treatment should be given under proper anaesthesia and muscle relaxants. A person will not be chained, under any circumstances. The bill also allows people to give advanced directions on the kind of treatment they would prefer if diagnosed with mental illness.
Health Ministry invited suggestions from public, during drafting
During the drafting of the bill, the Health Ministry had invited comments and suggestions from the public. After the President cleared the bill, a committee of experts was formed to frame rules and regulations. "We have put in a lot of effort to ensure rules don't lack clarity. These will act as a reference point to manage persons with mental illness," an official said.