The Lok Sabha was successful in passing a bill on the decriminalisation of suicide later this March. The newly announced initiative, the Mental Healthcare Bill not only decriminalises an attempt to suicide but also bans the use of electric shock therapy for treating children with mental illness.
An important factor in the Bill is that it separates attempt to suicide from the Indian Penal Code, thus IPC provisions cannot be invoked in the pertinant cases. The bill states that, since the person undertakes the step in extreme mental stress – meaning it is triggered by mental illness — the Bill does not criminalise it. One loophole to escaping from potential litigation is the hazy and unclear description of the term “mental stress” and it’s classification. The bill also permits conditional use of shock therapy on adults, after being given anaesthesia and muscle relaxants. It emphasises on ensuring no intrusion of rights and dignity of people with mental illness. However, what is important is to realise that only an efficient implementation by the government can result in making this bill actually efficacious.
An estimated 7-8% of the country’s population suffers from some kind of mental illness, while 2-3% has an acute condition, the Bill also mentions keeping a check on voluntary admissions, and if required, it will be for a specified period under the supervision of a trained psychiatrist. This will curb forced admissions and malicious intent behind involuntary admissions.
More than being suicide oriented, the bill would lead to busting the taboo behind mental illness in the society, if implemented properly. Thus this bill is a excellent symbol of modernisation.
The write up was submitted by Kainat Singh from the first year.