Globally, one suicide takes place every 40 seconds. So when the Rajya Sabha cleared the Mental Health Care Bill 2013 that decriminalises attempts to commit suicide, the medical fraternity was ecstatic. Dr Vikram Patel, professor of international mental health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, told The Indian Express, “I am happy that at last an archaic law which stigmatised people already facing severe social problems or mental health problems that drove them to take the extreme step, has been decriminalised. I hope that this is only the first step in a major reform of India’s mental health care system, as mandated both by the Bill and the National Mental Health Policy in bringing mental health out of the shadows of our society.”
Dr T Murali, President Elect of the World Association for Psycho Social Rehabilitation, said that an important feature of the Bill was insurance coverage for mentally-ill people. “What is important though is to implement mental health welfare measures as even today, there is no psychiatrist at several primary health centres in rural areas,” he said.
With a proactive legislation, the Bill now ensures the right of every person without discrimination to access good quality mental health services in all general hospitals, adds Dr Sagar Mundada, President of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD). No longer to be labelled as psychiatric cases, people with mental illnesses now have the right to free legal services and even complain about deficiency in services, if any.
An estimated 8,04,000 suicides occurred worldwide in 2012, representing an annual global age-standardised suicide rate of 11.4 per 1,00,000 population. In India, in 2012, 1,35,445 people are reported to have committed suicide. On an average, more than one lakh people commit suicide every year in the country (during 2003-2013.)
The highest rates of suicides during 2013 according to NCRB have been reported from Puducherry, followed by Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar, Tripura and Kerala. In terms of the number of suicides in different states in 2013, Maharashtra reported the highest number of suicides, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnataka. Among UTs, Delhi recorded the highest number of suicides followed by Puducherry.
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