Mental Health Act: An Overview

In India, there are thousands of people suffering from serious mental illness. Many of them go unnoticed and untreated in lack of proper knowledge, resources, and facilities. To address and curb such an issue, the Indian parliament legislated the Mental Health Act in 1987.

What does the Mental Health Act Define?

Act primarily identifies and then addresses the problem of mental illness. The Effective mental health services are implemented with the help of mental health legislation, which is especially useful for bolstering governmental mental health programme with public support and political will. Adoption of mental health legislation can increase financial support for mental health services, establish accountability for individuals in charge of providing such services, and get around bureaucratic bottlenecks to ensure adherence to mental health policies and directives. Effective mental health law can provide a legislative foundation for the integration of mental health services into the community as well as the removal of stigma, prejudice, and exclusion of people with mental illnesses.

Mental Health Authorities

It includes −

  • A mental health authority with whatever title the central government deems appropriate must be established.

  • In addition to psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric nursing homes, "mental health services" for the purposes of this section and Section 4 also refer to observation wards, daycare facilities, inpatient care in general hospitals, ambulatory treatment facilities, other facilities, convalescent homes, and halfway houses for people with mental illnesses.

State Mental Health Authorities

It includes −

  • An authority for mental health must be established by the state government, with whatever title it sees fit.

  • The state government shall supervise, direct, and exercise control over the authority created under subsection (1).

  • Perform whatever other duties the state government may specify in relation to issues involving mental health.

Psychiatric Hospitals and Psychiatric Nursing Homes

Major functions of such hospitals are −

In any region of India, either the Central Government or the State Government may be subject to their respective territorial jurisdiction's limitations. In order to admit, treat, and care for people with mental illnesses, it may be necessary to create or operate psychiatric hospitals or psychiatric nursing homes in the appropriate locations. The establishment or maintenance of separate psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes is permitted for −

  • Individuals who are under sixteen years’ old;

  • Individuals who are dependent on substances like alcohol or other drugs that alter a person's behavior;

  • individuals who are dependent on substances like alcohol or other drugs that alter a person's behavior;

  • individuals who have been found guilty of any crime.

Admission and Detention in Psychiatric Hospitals and Nursing Homes

Anyone who feels themselves to be mentally ill and wishes to receive treatment at any psychiatric hospital or nursing home may seek the approval of the medical officer in charge of being accepted as a voluntary patient. This individual must not be a minor. When a minor's guardian believes that the child is mentally ill and wants to admit the child for treatment in a psychiatric hospital or nursing home, he may ask the medical officer in charge to admit the child as a voluntary patient.

Discharge on a Voluntary Basis

When a minor patient who voluntarily enters psychiatric institution or nursing home as an inpatient reaches the age of majority, inform the patient that he is now of legal age and that he has one month to request to remain an inpatient if he so desires. He must be discharged, and subject to the requirements of subsection (3), he must be discharged at the end of the specified term if the medical officer−in−charge is not contacted before the end of the specified period requesting that he be kept as an inpatient.

Admission Under Special Circumstances

A mentally ill individual who is unable to communicate his wish to be admitted as a voluntary patient or who does not do so may, if the medical officer−in−charge determines that it is necessary to do so in the mentally ill person's best interests, have a relative or friend apply on their behalf for admission and maintenance as an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home.

Every application made in accordance with subsection (1) must be submitted in the prescribed format and include two medical certifications, one of which must be issued by a doctor working for the government. stating that an individual with a mental illness has to be treated as an inpatient in a psychiatric facility or nursing home and maintained under close supervision for observational purposes.

Reception Orders

There are several ways to request a reception order. Psychiatrist or a mental health facility's medical director; the mentally ill person's spouse, partner, or any other member of their family. The mental patient has a mental disorder of a kind and severity that requires ongoing care for longer than six months in a mental health facility or, where applicable, a mental health nursing home. The husband or wife of a person who is allegedly mentally ill, or in the absence of a husband or wife, or in the event that the husband or wife is prevented from making the application due to an illness, an absence from India, or for any other reason, shall, subject to the provisions of subsection (5), make the application.

Medical Certificate Format and Contents

A statement must be included in each medical certificate mentioned in Section 20's Subsection (6). that each of the medical professionals mentioned in that subsection has independently evaluated the individual who is allegedly suffering from mental illness and has developed an opinion based on his observations and the information provided to him.

License Issuance and Revocation

The licensure authority must conduct all necessary inquiries after receiving a Section 7 application, and if it determines that it is essential to create or maintain any psychiatric hospitals or nursing homes that were already operational before the passage of this Act, as well as to continue to maintain any such facilities already in operation, the applicant can provide the bare minimum facilities needed for the admission, care, and treatment of mentally ill people. A medical officer who is a psychiatrist will be in control of the mental health facility, whether it be a hospital or nursing home.


Although its breadth is impracticable, the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 has an extraterrestrial appearance. Without a doubt, the statute represents a significant improvement over the 1987 Act in terms of its reach. The current healthcare system, however, appears to be ineffective, and we lack the necessary infrastructure and experts, which has a negative impact on the quality of life and healthcare for those with mental illness. The Act has adopted a common change that effectively transforms "mental healthcare" into "justiciable rights."

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the format and content of a medical certificate?

Each medical certificate referred to in Section 20's subsection shall contain a statement (6) that each of the health care providers named in that section has independently assessed the person who is supposedly experiencing mental illness and has formed an opinion based on his observations and the data presented to him.

Q. Can a certified patient be allowed temporary leave from a mental health centre for purposes other than health care services?

Yes, as long as the activity complies with Section 29 and has the attending physician's approval and is a "benefit to the patient." The attending physician can describe the aim of the activity, who has supervision duty, and any limitations.

Q. Who can designate a space as a mental health centre?

According to Section 10 of the Regional Health Services rule and the Facility Designation Regulations, the Minister of Health will have the power to name a mental health centre.