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:
- Live with dignity
- Live in a safe and hygienic environment
- Have adequate sanitary facilities
- Have proper clothing and other provisions for personal hygiene
- Participate in leisure, recreation, education and religious, and other community activities
- Access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the governmental bodies
- Seek information on diagnosis, treatment, discharge facilities, etc.
- Make decisions regarding his/her own mental health treatment
- Make decisions about personal contacts, communication, and support systems
- Avail emergency facilities and emergency services for mental illness
- Seek treatment in health establishments, care homes, rehabilitation centers, etc.
- Access medical records and medical facilities
- Be protected from all forms of physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse
- Be protected from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in any setting
- Privacy and confidentiality about his/her mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare
- Seek legal aid
- Release information in the interests of public safety and security
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  and the Juvenile Justice Act .
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]”.
- 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
- Refuse nomination of a selected person or nominee if the minor thinks that the nominated representative is not fit to execute his/her responsibilities
- Make mental health care or treatment decisions, with or without the assistance of the nominated representative
- 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
- Provide or withhold consent to treatment, discharge, etc.
- Seek information on disease, diagnosis, and treatment of the concerned mental illness
- Seek access services related to family or home-based rehabilitation and mental health establishments
- Apply to a mental health professional or establishment for admission or discharge
- Seek privacy and confidentiality of diagnosis information
- Be involved in the treatment and discharge planning
- Appoint a suitable attendant before, during, and after the treatment process
- Seek aid, legal or otherwise, in case of violation of his/her rights during the treatment process
- Withhold consent for participation and research involving interviewing the person or psychological, physical, chemical or medicinal interventions
- 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
- Make an advance directive in writing about how a person wishes to be cared for and treated for a mental illness
- Make an advance directive on mental health care and treatment decisions that shall override any previous legal agreement
- Amend, revoke, or cancel an advance directive about his/her mental health conditions
- Make decisions about treatment and discharge planning
- Refuse referral programs that violate mental health rights
- Seek help from any mental health service outside the recommendations of his/her professional organization
- Access leaves titled as “mental health days”
- Refuse workplace forms that compromise therapy-related information
- Maintain privacy and confidentiality about diagnostic information
- 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  and the Transfer of Prisoners Act .
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:
- Seek basic and emergency mental health care and treatment
- Seek lawful transfer to the psychiatric ward in the medical wing of the prison
- Seek admission into any suitable mental health establishment
- Avail facilities of rehabilitation, telemedicine,etc.
- Access regular visits from families and mental health professionals