March 12, 2007

Indian National Mental Health Act need to reviewed

Speaking on the occasion of inaugural programme of International Women's Day and the seminar on "Mentally Ill Women - is Destitution the only Answer?" in New Delhi, the Indian Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss said that mentally ill women face formidable socio-economic problems such as neglect by family and society, dislocation, abandonment and are vulnerable as easy targets of sexual abuse.

There is an urgent need to study the issues concerned with such mentally disadvantaged women focusing on social, legal and ethical aspects. The critical gap in the need, availability and accessibility of mental health care services needs to be corrected.

"This is a very sensitive subject needing deliberations to ease the problems of mentally ill women. Indeed, mental health is one of the main dimensions of health and aptly said there could be no health without mental health.

Research has demonstrated whether it is denial of economic resources, education, legal and health services deprivation, lack of physical and mental nurturance, exhaustion from overwork or se xual and other forms of physical and mental abuse across the life span, research corroborates that it is women who are at the greatest risk. These issues not only fall within the fabric of human rights, but also are those, which understandably affect mental health.

Mental health may be defined as the capacity of individuals and groups to interact with one another and the environment in ways that promote subjective well-being, optimal development, and use of cognitive, affective and relational abilities. It is much more than the absence of mental illness. It is the realization of one's potential shaped by factors such as biological make-up, gender roles, family life, human relationships, work opportunities, educational achievements, and a variety of structural and socio economic determinants.

People suffering from mental illness and other mental health problems are among the most stigmatized, discriminated against, marginalized, disadvantaged and vulnerable members of society.

With inadequate support and a strong gender bias, the mentally ill women are rarely accepted into the family and are forced to fend for themselves resulting in homelessness. Mental illness may play a role in initiating homelessness for some. A combination of severe mental illness, a tendency to decompensate in a non structured environment, and an inability or unwillingness to follow through with aftercare contributes to their being involved with the criminal justice system.

Perceiving the magnitude of the problem in India, some Government and Non-Government Organizations like Banyan, Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), Action Aid India, National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences, Bangalore (NIMHANS) etc. are mobilizing their services to help women with mental illness particularly those who are underprivileged."

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