Suicide Is No Longer A Crime Thanks To India’s New Mental Health Bill

Representational Image
Representational ImageThe Indian Express

They say death is not of your choosing. Religious texts condemn suicide for that reason, while Government bodies all over the world consider suicide a crime. Although lately, with more awareness being spread out about mental illness, the laws have started taking mental health into consideration. Attempted suicide may still be punishable in certain countries around the world, but now, India isn’t one of them anymore.

With the passing of the Mental Healthcare Bill, suicide attempts by mentally ill people will not be considered a crime, and services will be provided for these people. “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proven otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code,” reads the bill. Previously, section 309 threatened to imprison violators for a year, impose a fine, or both.

The Bill also assures free treatment for the homeless or poor, even if they do not hold a Below Poverty Line card. A person with mental illness will also have the right to choose how they wish to be treated for their mental illness in advance, and decide on a representative. The Mental Health Review Commission and Board will review the procedure for making these advance directives. Every state will have a State Mental Health Authority, while a Central Mental Health Authority will run on a national level. Mental health institutes and practitioners such as clinical psychologists, mental health nurses and psychiatric social workers will have to be registered with this Authority.

This bill is particularly helpful for all cases of failed suicide attempts, in that instead of imprisonment, a person now stands a chance for rehabilitation and therapy. With bills like this being passed, and the Indian Government recognizing the needs of some of the marginalized sections of society, perhaps there is still some hope for our country.