New health policy pushes for decriminalising suicide bids

October 10, 2014 03:22 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 04:51 am IST - New Delhi

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday launched the country’s first ever mental health policy. File Photo

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday launched the country’s first ever mental health policy. File Photo

India’s new health policy which calls for recognition of mental disorders and a more accessible and holistic treatment of mental illnesses also pushes for decriminalisation of attempted suicide.

Released on the occasion of World Mental Health Day on Friday, the policy takes a fresh look at the health services being offered for mental illnesses, lays down the guidelines for mental health care, and recommends changes in the law that criminalises suicide, now considered a major cause of death among people with a mental illness.

Releasing the policy, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said: “The Indian Lunatic Asylum Act, 1858, and Indian Lunacy Act, 1912, ignored the human rights aspect and were concerned only with custodial issues. After Independence, it took 31 years for India to attempt the first enactment, which resulted another nine years later in the Mental Health Act, 1987. But due to many defects, the Act never came into force.”

Advocating a change in attitude towards mental illnesses, he said: “When someone attempts suicide and fails, it is considered a crime; attempted suicides should be decriminalised.”

The new policy is backed up by the “Mental Health Action Plan 365” which spells out specific roles for the Centre, States, local bodies and civil society organisations.

“Universal access to mental health care is a specific goal of the government. It would find substantial articulation in the National Health Policy and National Health Assurance Mission,” the Minister said.

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