New Mental Health Bill is a much welcome step

The Mental Health Care Bill 2013, is welcome as it a step towards acknowledging the huge shortage of infrastructure and psychiatrists in the country. The bill aims to protect and promote the of rights of people with mental illness and offer better support and facilities to people suffering from various types of mental illnesses.

In India, mental health problems are more common than cancer and heart diseases. There is a high prevalence of mental disorders, from 58.2 to 73 per 1000 population.

However, research says that over 80% of people suffering are not getting the required treatment due to shortage of mental health experts, stigma, inadequate facilities and the high treatment costs. At present, there is only one psychiatrist for every 343000 people.

The new Bill is progressive because it acknowledges these glaring shortfalls and also calls for greater support for caregivers who are largely neglected. The move to decriminalize attempted suicides also recognizes the rights of the mentally ill. The focus on compassion and responsibility is also a welcome shift away from socially stigmatizing those who suffer from mental illnesses.

However, how effective this Bill will be depends on the implementation and this is a big question mark. Since health is a state subject, different states are left to their own devices when it comes to bringing the various provisions into force and this could undermine many of its positives.

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