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Mental Health Rights

The Mental Health Care Act (MHCA) of 2017 elaborately lays down the legislative provisions and the ethical protocols concerning mental health issues in the national territory of India. To avail better the countless, already available opportunities, consider educating yourself about how mental health is viewed within Indian jurisdiction and the guaranteed mental health rights.

Mental Health Rights of an Indian Citizen

Every person experiencing suffering from psychological disorders has the right to:

Mental Health Insurance

The MHCA lays down that “every insurer shall make provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as is available for treatment of physical illness”. This provision has been further mandated by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), because of which a large number of health insurance companies have decided to introduce mental health insurance policies in both in-patient and out-patient departments.

To avail the IRDAI circular about the Mental Health Care Act, click here.

Mental Health Rights of a Minor

The provisions for mental health rights of minors in India are laid down by the MHCA, in conjunction with a number of acts, including the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act [2016] and the Juvenile Justice Act [2015].

According to the MHCA, a minor or a child is entitled to several mental health rights, though these rights are to be exercised in the presence of an adult nominated representative who is “competent to discharge the duties or perform the functions assigned to [him/her] under this Act, and give [his/her] consent in writing to the mental health professional to discharge his duties and perform the functions assigned to him/her under [the act]”.

When it comes to mental healthcare and treatment, a child or a minor has the right to:

  1. Be nominated by a legal guardian, a medical officer, a relative, a care-giver, a mental health professional, a board, a committee, or someone appointed by the government’s department of social welfare or public courts
  2. Refuse nomination of a selected person or nominee if the minor thinks that the nominated representative is not fit to execute his/her responsibilities
  3. Make mental health care or treatment decisions, with or without the assistance of the nominated representative
  4. Demand that the nominated representative consider the current and past wishes, the life history, values, cultural background and the best interests of the person with mental illness
  5. Provide or withhold consent to treatment, discharge, etc.
  6. Seek information on disease, diagnosis, and treatment of the concerned mental illness
  7. Seek access services related to family or home-based rehabilitation and mental health establishments
  8. Apply to a mental health professional or establishment for admission or discharge
  9. Seek privacy and confidentiality of diagnosis information
  10. Be involved in the treatment and discharge planning
  11. Appoint a suitable attendant before, during, and after the treatment process
  12. Seek aid, legal or otherwise, in case of violation of his/her rights during the treatment process
  13. Withhold consent for participation and research involving interviewing the person or psychological, physical, chemical or medicinal interventions
  14. Be exempted from certain treatment processes like the use of electroconvulsive therapy, psycho-surgery, etc. or any medicine or treatment not authorized by the psychiatric profession

Mental Health Rights at the Workplace

The MHCA, along with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act [2016], grants a working professional experiencing mental health issues the right to:

  1. Make an advance directive in writing about how a person wishes to be cared for and treated for a mental illness
  2. Make an advance directive on mental health care and treatment decisions that shall override any previous legal agreement
  3. Amend, revoke, or cancel an advance directive about his/her mental health conditions
  4. Make decisions about treatment and discharge planning
  5. Refuse referral programs that violate mental health rights
  6. Seek help from any mental health service outside the recommendations of his/her professional organization
  7. Access leaves titled as “mental health days”
  8. Refuse workplace forms that compromise therapy-related information
  9. Maintain privacy and confidentiality about diagnostic information
  10. Access, if any, mental health records, reports, and assessments collected about the person on company records

Mental Health Rights in Prisons

The MHCA is primarily associated with mental health issues and treatment of inmates in prisons and correction centers across India. It also functions in conjunction with the Indian Constitution and landmark laws, such as the Prisoners Act [1990] and the Transfer of Prisoners Act [1950].

The MHCA defines a “prisoner with mental illness” as “a person with mental illness who is an under-trial or convicted of an offense and detained in a jail or prison”. It provides incarcerated inmates suffering from mental illnesses the right to:

It provides incarcerated inmates suffering from mental illnesses the right to:

  1. Seek basic and emergency mental health care and treatment
  2. Seek lawful transfer to the psychiatric ward in the medical wing of the prison
  3. Seek admission into any suitable mental health establishment
  4. Avail facilities of rehabilitation, telemedicine,etc.
  5. Access regular visits from families and mental health professionals