Mental Health Act 2017 | Mental Health Act in India


Mental Healthcare Act, 2017

Mental Health is a crucial part of the overall health of a person. There has been a significant increase in mental illness in India. While there are many reasons for it, but the most important is the lack of awareness about the importance of psychologists and therapies. According to a survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 7.5% of the total population of India is hit by mental illness.1 And the recent pandemic and lockdown has caused rapid growth in mental issues due to fear of Job Loss, Anxiety & Domestic Violence, Panic Attacks, raising the number to 20%.2 

A recent survey conducted by a British foundation, Mental Health Research UK, claimed that 42.5% of the employees in India’s corporate sector is struggling with depression or an anxiety disorder.

The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA) passed by the Government in 2017 is appreciated for addressing the need of millions of Indians wanting help. The act abolishes the existing Mental Healthcare Act, 1987 which was highly criticised for not acknowledging rights of a mentally ill person and contained many other drawbacks like the limited definition of “mental illness to “mental disorder” or no attention to WHO guidelines.


Mental Illness: Definition

The term “mental illness” is defined by Section 2(s) of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 as a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation, or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs, but does not include mental retardation which is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, especially characterized by sub normality of intelligence.

The MHCA, 2017 provides an elaborative definition of “mental illness” which was lacked by the previous act 1987.

Major Provisions

Rights of Person with Mental Illness

l  Every person has the right to get mental health care from mental health services run or financed by the appropriate Government.  

l  Every person with a mental illness shall have a right to live with dignity.

l  There shall be no discrimination on any basis including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class, or disability against mentally ill people.

l  A person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare.

l  No photograph or any other information relating to a person with mental illness undergoing treatment at a mental health establishment shall be released to the media without the consent of the person with mental illness.

l  Right of choosing the person who would be answerable for making decisions with the view to the treatment, his admission into a hospital, etc.

l  Persons with mental illness living below the poverty line whether or not in possession of a below poverty line card, or who are destitute or homeless shall be entitled to mental health treatment and services free of any charge and at no financial cost at all mental health establishments run or funded by the appropriate Government and at other mental health establishments designated by it.

l  The person with mental illness shall have the right to make an advance directive that states who his/her nominated representative should be and how he/she wants to be treated for the illness. The advance directive should be certified by a medical practitioner or registered with the Mental Health Board.

Mental Health Authority

The act provides for the government to set up the Central Mental Health Authority at national-level and State Mental Health Authority in each State.

Every mental health practitioner and mental health institute has to mandatorily register with this Authority.

Mental Health Treatment

The act also specifies the process and procedure for admission, treatment and discharge of mentally-ill individuals.

A medical practitioner or a mental health professional shall not be held liable for any unforeseen outcomes on following a valid advance directive.

Decriminalisation of suicide

 As provided in Section 115;

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.

(2) The appropriate Government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide.

This is a big step which annulled Section 309 IPC which stated that ‘Any person attempting to perform suicide shall be punished with simple imprisonment which may prolong to one year.’



1) Birla, Neerja. “Mental Health in India: 7.5% of Country Affected; Less than 4,000 Experts Available.” The Economic Times, Economic Times, 10 Oct. 2019,

2) Loival, Manogya. “20% Increase in Patients with Mental Illness since Coronavirus Outbreak: Survey.” India Today, 31 Mar. 2020,