A day-long NHRC National Level Review Meeting on Mental Health concludes highlighting several issues to bridge the gap between the legislation and its implementation (07.08.2019)

New Delhi, 07th August, 2019

A day-long NHRC National Level Review Meeting on Mental Health concluded at India International centre, New Delhi today highlighting several issues to bridge the gap between the legislation and its implementation. Earlier, inaugurating it, the NHRC Chairperson, Mr. Justice H.L. Dattu said that the efforts to improve the mental health care in the country have been made but a huge gap still remains between the requirements and availability of facilities in the sector.

Flagging it as a matter of serious concern for the Commission, he said that consistent with its policy to monitor the mental health sector, it felt necessary to evaluate the ground realities post implementation of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. Justice Dattu said that there is a requirement of 13500 psychiatrists but only 3827 are available. Against the requirement of 20250 clinical psychologists only 898 are available. Similarly, there is an acute shortage of para– medical staff also.

The NHRC Chairperson also raised the issue of prisoners having mental health problems and said that the protection of the rights of such prisoners is an obligation of the State governments under Section 103 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 as also emphasized by the Supreme Court in one of its recent judgments.

Ms. Preeti Sudan, Union Health & Family Welfare Secretary said that the Centre has been very proactively engaged with the task of improving the mental healthcare system in the country for which the cooperation of States is also needed. She said that the funds are not the impediments but the States have to come forward with their proposals to implement the imperatives of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 also submit timely reports on their expenditure for the same.

Earlier, Mr. Sanjeeva Kumar, Special Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and Mr Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare echoed the similar views. Mr. Kumar said that only 19 States have implemented the Mental Healthcare Act so far. He said that 10.6 percent adult population in the country suffers from mental health issues, which is a huge number requiring holistic concept of safety nets, legal frameworks and medical care facilities. He lauded the NHRC for its efforts in bringing different stakeholders to discuss the subject and improve the situation through collaborative approach.

Mr. Jaideep Govind, Secretary General, NHRC giving an overview of the Commission’s several engagements with reference to the mental health said that it forms part of development goal 3 which emphasizes well being of all. He said that some states have introduced good practices which need to be replicated by others. He also said that the Commission has expanded its outreach by providing various alternative ways of filing complaints with the Commission. This included linking of NHRC’s online complaint filing system with over three lakh Common Service Centres in the country.

Post discussions, the NHRC Member, Mr. Justice P. C. Pant, in his concluding remarks, expressed the hope that the suggestions will go a long way in bridging the gap between the legislation and its implementation. He said that it is expected that the State governments would make concerted efforts to improve the mental healthcare.

Besides the NHRC Member, Mr. Justice P. C. Pant, Secretary General, Mr. Jaideep Govind and Joint Secretary, Mr. Dilip Kumar and other officers, Special Rapporteurs and Special Monitors, the participants included other representatives of the concerned Union Ministries, State Governments, State Human Rights Commissions, Medical Council of India, Nursing Council of India, Directors of Mental Health Institutes, Mental Health Experts, NGOs and civil society organizations.