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I have lived with a mental illness victim, know the pain: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor called mental illness a very complicated disability as compared to a broken leg.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi |
Updated: March 25, 2017 11:46:07 am
shashi tharoor, mental illness, shashi tharoor mental illness, decriminalisation of suicide, suicide decriminalisation, shashi tharoor mental healthcare, shashi tharoor parliament, shashi tharoor on mental diseases, india news, indian express news, latest news Congress MP Shashi Tharoor congratulated Health Minister J P Nadda for the effort to decriminalise suicide. (Source: Express Archive Photo/Prem Nath Pandey)

During a discussion Friday on a bill to decriminalise suicide and provide comprehensive mental healthcare, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said he has lived with a victim of mental illness and so knows the pain the person goes through. He also described the tendency for suicide as a sign of mental illness. “I can tell you, Mr Chairman, from personal experience that there is nothing sadder than witnessing a close one, a loved one, with mental illness at close quarters. I have lived with a victim of mental illness… Very often such people are in a state of denial. They do not accept that they have a mental problem,” Tharoor said.

He called mental illness a very complicated disability as compared to a broken leg. “Somebody has a broken mind. It is extremely difficult to diagnose it. Sometimes, people as far as their appearances go seem perfectly healthy. They are happy. They come across as social beings while confronting painful inner battles,” he said. Tharoor called for a change in social mindset where a stigma is attached to people seeking help for mental illness. He asked the government to find and promote role models, such as Bollywood actors who have sought treatment for mental illness, so that society would face the problem like any other illness.

Tharoor congratulated Health Minister J P Nadda for the effort to decriminalise suicide. He said there are 15 suicides every 60 minutes in the country and described these as instances of the House’s collective failure. He called for sensitisation of police so that they do not take action against the victims who survive such attempts. “An attempted suicide is a cry for help, not a crime,” he said. Introducing the bill earlier, Nadda said, “The bill empowers the patients for mental healthcare. It gives them the right so that he/she is not denied (treatment) or discriminated against. The focus is on community mental healthcare… It is a rights-based bill.” The Mental Healthcare Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha with 134 amendments last August last year. Nadda said it was being introduced in Lok Sabha after consultations with experts, academia and others.

Nadda said the bill provides that a person who attempts suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from mental illness and will not be punished under the IPC. A unique feature of the bill, Nadda said, is that it allows adults to make an advance directive on how they wish to be treated should they suffer from mental illness in future. They can also nominate a representative who would take care of him or her. It clearly defines mental illness and mental healthcare when the earlier definition was vague, he said.

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There are also provisions under which a person cannot be sterilised just because he or she is a mental patient. “As per this law, we cannot separate a child for three years… Also, one cannot chain a mentally ill person,” the minister said. “We tried to see that the patient is protected and no coercive methodology is adopted. Persons who will not adhere to it will be liable to penalty and imprisonment. This is a very progressive bill.” The bill focuses on community-based treatment. It includes special provisions for women and health. Among the various objectives, it provides for ensuring healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental illness “in a manner that does not intrude on their rights and dignity”. India is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a United Nations treaty.

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First published on: 25-03-2017 at 05:26:20 am
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