Parliament passes Bill decriminalising suicide attempt

The new Mental Healthcare Bill that decriminalises attempt to suicide and bans use of electric shock therapy for treating children with mental illness was passed by the Lok Sabha (Mar 27).

An important factor in the Bill is that it separates attempt to suicide from the Indian Penal Code. In effect, IPC provisions cannot be invoked in case of an attempt to suicide.

Since the person undertakes the step in extreme mental stress – meaning it is triggered by mental illness — the Bill does not criminalise it.

Also, the Bill gives an opportunity to a person to provide advance directions on the kind of treatment they would want in case diagnosed with a mental illness in future.

An estimated 6-7% of the country’s population suffers from some kind of mental illness, while 1-2% has an acute condition.

Various stakeholders, including academia, experts and the political establishment, were consulted while formulating the Bill, which focuses on community-based treatment.

Special provisions for women and health are there in the Bill, including not separating women from their children unless absolutely necessary.