Persons with mental illness have certain rights1 so as to safeguard them from discrimination and harm. These rights are:
An advance directive is a legal document. In other words, it specifies healthcare decisions that should be taken for a person in the event they are not capable of making such decisions. Persons with mental illness can take the help of a service provider, NGO or lawyer to make this document.
A nominated representative is a person who is appointed by a person with mental illness to discharge certain duties. This includes provision of support to the person while making treatment decisions, helping such a person get admitted to a mental health establishment if required, etc.
A person with mental illness has the right to access mental health care from government-funded mental healthcare services, such as inpatient and outpatient services, half-way homes, sheltered accommodation etc. They can also get services to support the family of the person with mental illness.
A person with mental illness has the right to community living. They can live with and be a part of society and not be forced to live in isolation, etc. For example, someone with mental illness need not live in an abandoned. They can live in a residential area and be a part of society.
Every person with a mental illness has a right to live with dignity. In other words, protection from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in any mental health establishment.
Every person with mental illness has a right to equality and non-discrimination. For example, persons with physical illness have the same rights as those with physical illnesses.
A person with mental illness and their nominated representative have the right to ask for information. For instance, information about the person’s mental illness, treatment plan, any side effects, about the criteria for admission in a mental health establishment, about the law governing provision of care to people with mental illness, etc.
A person with mental illness has the right to confidentiality. This includes information on their mental health, mental healthcare and physical healthcare. However, there are certain exceptions to this.
A person with mental illness has a right to free legal aid. Legal aid means providing free of cost legal services including Representation by a lawyer in legal proceedings, payment of all costs including process fees, expenses of witnesses etc.
In case of deficiency of care treatment and related services in a mental health establishment, a person with mental illness or their nominated representative have the right to complain.
A person with a mental illness who is admitted to a mental health establishment has the right to communicate with their personal contacts. This includes the right to receive or refuse visitors, to send and receive electronic mail, etc.
The law punishes mental health establishment or any other person who violate these rights. The punishment is jail time of up to 6 months and/or a fine up to Rs. 10,000 for the first offence. For any subsequent offence, the jail time is up to 2 years and/or with a fine between Rs. 50,000 to 2 lakhs2. You should complain against such a person, or approach the Court with the help of a lawyer.
- Mental Healthcare Act, 2017
- Section 108, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017