ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mental Illness, Care, and the Bill

A Simplistic Interpretation

Critiquing Bhargavi V Davar's ideas of "psychosocial disabilities", discrimination, autonomy, and informed consent ("Legal Frameworks for and against People with Psychosocial Disabilities", EPW, 29 December 2012), two comments interrogate the essential concepts of mental illness and disability, and access to care within the legal framework of the draft Mental Health Care Bill.

The vulnerable and marginalised are often those who are the most neglected, violated and discriminated against. However, suffering is universal and does not always affect only those traditionally perceived as weak, be it the poor, elderly, homeless, persons living with a disability or a mental disorder, etc. It must be noted though, that loss of social capital undoubtedly enhances the extent of distress, relegating those who experience pain and loss as a result of their context further to the periphery. As a society, it is our duty and obligation to uphold values of justice and equity, as we promote the rights of underserved persons, keeping in mind the need to protect lives, minds, liberty and aspirations.

Bhargavi Davar (2012), in her article “Legal Frameworks for and against People with Psychosocial Disabilities”, rightly raises important issues around loss of personhood, discrimination, autonomy, involuntary commitment and poor quality of institution-based services in the mental health sector in India. However, her arguments tend to be unidimensional, inaccurate and stereotypical, thereby positing definitive solutions, even while referring to mental illness as a “complex” phenomenon. Given the nature, spread and depth of the problem, the discourse on mental health should be articulated scientifically and responsibly, even as one approaches it from different ideological slants. Reflecting on Davar’s views, the authors attempt to interrogate essential concepts of mental illness and disability, justice, rights, treatment and the proposed Mental Health Care Bill (MHCB).

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