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EditorialDecriminalising suicides

Decriminalising suicides


Decriminalising suicides

Finally, the Mental Healthcare Bill, which decriminalises suicide and guarantees the right to better healthcare for people with mental illness, has been unanimously passed in the Lok Sabha. The Bill mandates that a person attempting suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from ‘severe stress' and, therefore, shall not be tried or punished by law.

It also ensures that persons with suicidal tendencies be given help and rehabilitated. What is surprising is that such an obviously welcome Bill was not adopted much earlier. While suicides due to insanity declined from 7 per cent in 2010 to 5.4 per cent in 2014, data from the Crime Records Bureau say nearly 7,000 people killed themselves because of mental disorders in 2014.

While the legislation is a plus, what is required from society is an attitude that is sensitive and reflects understanding and support for these unfortunate people. The same sensitivity is required also in the cases of the physically challenged who are often victims of neglect, prejudice and lack of compassion.

That this is the first mental law to take a ‘rights-based' approach to mental illness by consolidating and safeguarding the fundamental human rights of the patients is a positive development.

The mental healthcare Bill had been passed by the Rajya Sabha with 134 official amendments last August. A unique feature of the Bill is that it allows adults to make an advance directive on how they wish to be treated in case they got mental illness in the future. Such a person can choose a nominative representative who would take care of him or her.

The Bill also promises free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or fall below the poverty line, even if they do not possess a BPL card. A clear definition of mental illness was a gaping inadequacy before this Bill because the earlier definition was vague. Another welcome feature is that a person cannot be sterilised just because he or she is a mental patient. The Bill is progressive insofar as this has been strictly prohibited. Any violation of this has been made punishable with penalty and imprisonment.

All in all, this is a refreshingly worthy Bill and minister J P Nadda deserves to be commended for initiating and successfully steering it. Around 6-7 per cent of 's population suffers from some kind of mental illnesses, while 1-2 per cent suffers from acute mental disease.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.


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