Mental illness is a health condition 1 which involves substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception and orientation or memory. This may lead to gross impairment of judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life. Abuse of drugs or alcohol, for instance, may also result in a mental condition. Some examples of mental illness are a substance abuse disorder, bipolar disorder, etc. This does not include mental retardation i.e. incomplete intellectual development. Persons with mental illness also have rights under the law including the right to confidentiality, right to treatment, etc.
Determination of Mental Illness
The mental illness of a person must be determined according to nationally/internationally accepted medical standards, like the International Classification of Disease of the World Health Organisation 2.
The following reasons are not significant in determining whether a person has a mental illness:3:
- Past treatment for a mental illness4
- Political, or social status
- Belonging to a cultural, racial or religious group
- Any other reason not directly relevant to the mental health status of the person
- Refusal to follow the moral, social, cultural, work, political, or religious values prevalent in one’s community
Capacity to Make Decisions Regarding Treatment
The capacity to make mental healthcare-related decisions depends on the conditions given below: 6:
- The ability to understand relevant information on mental healthcare-related issues, such as admission, personal assistance or treatment. Please note the information given to the person has to be comprehensible. For instance, if Ram cannot hear properly, then the information has to be given to him using means that will enable him to understand it. 7.
- The ability to understand the consequences of a decision on the treatment, admission or personal assistance
- The ability to communicate the formed decision through speech, expression, gesture, etc.
Even if one takes a decision that others think is incorrect or inappropriate, that alone will not mean that one does not have the capacity to make such a decision 8.
For instance, Ram decides not to go to a mental health establishment against the wishes of his parents. Just because Ram’s parents think that his decision is inappropriate, does not mean Ram does not have the capacity to make such a decision.0
- Section 2(s), the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
- Section 3(1), the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
- Section 3(3), the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
- Section 3(4), the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
- Section 3(5), the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
- Section 4(1), the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
- Section 4(2), the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017
- Section 4(3), the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.