It will also look at providing community-based care and long-term management

Amendments have been suggested to the Mental Health Act for endowing it with the principle of rights of persons with mental illness, Keshav Desiraju, Special Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said here on Friday.

The amendments do not so much seek to make section-by-section changes as they are seeking to change the spirit of the Act, he said while speaking at the inaugural of ICONS V, organised by the Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF).

Similar amendments are to be implemented in the Persons with Disabilities Act. While the task is fairly easy to ensure the rights of persons with physical disabilities, it can be tough to ensure that the rights of people whose mental facilities are impaired are also protected. Some of these people may not immediately be in position to insist on their rights. However, whether they ask for it or not, the 40 million persons with mental disabilities will have to be treated, he said.

Other amendments will also look at providing community-based care and long term management of mental illness, Mr. Desiraju said. Under the 12th Plan, the effort would be to revise the National Mental Health Programme, where attention would be paid to, among other things, improving the condition of mental health institutions in the country.  

State Health Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan said Tamil Nadu’s District Mental Health Programme had found its own ways of overcoming the scarcity of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. PHCs had now incorporated the rudiments of mental health care and a working model of community health care was likely to emerge in two years’ time.

T. Ramasami, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, said his office would be a willing partner to find research in the area of mental health care.

A compendium of personal experiences, ‘Recovery from Schizophrenia,’ and a book edited by psychiatrist Lakshmi Vijayakumar, ‘Emergencies in Psychiatry,’ were released on the occasion.

R. Thara, director, SCARF, said ICONS is an international conference being held every alternative year since 2002.

The fifth edition will conclude on Sunday.