India’s mental health landscape was transformed with the enactment of the Mental Health Care Act (MHCA) in 2017, effective from 2018. This landmark legislation replaced outdated laws like the Mental Health Act of 1987 and the colonial-era Indian Lunacy Act of 1912.

Complementing the National Mental Health Policy of 2014, the MHCA aligns with key international frameworks such as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016, the Indian Penal Code, and global standards like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Join us as we advocate for and navigate these critical mental health reforms.

The preamble of the Mental Health Care Act (MHCA) states its purpose clearly:

“To provide mental healthcare and services for individuals with mental illness, safeguard their rights, and ensure the delivery of quality mental healthcare services.”

The Mental Health Care Act (MHCA) of India takes a human rights-based approach to mental health issues, reflecting the evolving understanding of human rights and mental health. It decriminalizes suicide, restricts certain forms of treatment like electroconvulsive therapy, and regulates psycho-surgeries and involuntary detentions in mental health facilities.

The MHCA defines “mental illness” as a condition that significantly impairs a person’s thinking, mood, perception, orientation, or memory, affecting their judgment, behavior, and ability to cope with life’s demands. It also includes conditions resulting from substance abuse but excludes mental retardation.

Importantly, the MHCA emphasizes collaboration among various stakeholders in mental healthcare, including mental health professionals, police and medical officers, government and non-governmental agencies, courts, individuals, families, and others in India. It promotes mental healthcare as a collaborative effort involving diagnosis, treatment, care, and rehabilitation.

The act ensures that mental health assessments are based on internationally accepted medical standards and prohibits discrimination based on coercion, religion, ethnicity, political ideology, caste, class, lifestyle, or medical history.

According to the MHCA, every person has the right to access mental health care and treatment from services provided or funded by the government.