Mental healthcare Act, 2017 and the stigma around mental illness in India
Mental illnesses constitute one-sixth of all health-related disorders and India accounted for nearly 15% of the global mental, neurological and substance abuse disorder burden. The treatment gap, which is defined as the prevalence of mental illnesses and the proportion of patients that get treatment, is over 70 per cent. WHO also predicts that by 2020, roughly 20 per cent of India will suffer from mental illnesses. And to cater to this demographic, we have less than 4,000 mental health professionals. Those who suffer rarely get access to appropriate medical treatment as their families try to hide their condition out of a sense of shame. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, 1 in 40 and 1 in 20 people are suffering from the past and current episodes of depression in India. Almost everywhere in the world, mental illnesses are taboo. Sometimes, society blames the patients themselves for their condition. Certain mental disorders are accompanied by peculiar or aggressive behaviour. Those who display such behaviour, are likely to encounter hatred, contempt or fear. In many places, common responses to aggressive, uncontrolled behaviour or even severe depression are still electroshocks, beatings or locking up. The new Mental Healthcare Act 2017 rescinds/revoked the existing Mental Healthcare Act 1987. The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA) 2017 upholds patient autonomy, dignity, rights and choices during mental healthcare and thus marks a bold step in India’s mental health legislation. This new Law marks a major shift in the way mental healthcare is delivered, as it aims to protect and promote the rights of people during the delivery of mental healthcare.