In a national conference on mental health held at Vigyan Bhawan, NHRC Chairperson Justice (Retd) Arun Kumar Mishra expressed concern over the lingering stay of cured patients in mental hospitals across the country. The conference was attended by Union Minister of State for Health Bharti Pravin Pawar and other dignitaries.
According to a report prepared by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) based on visits conducted between July 2022 and January 2023, various mental healthcare institutions in the country still house more than 2,000 cured patients. Justice Mishra firmly stated that no cured patient should be allowed to remain in a hospital, emphasizing that “a hospital is not a place where cured patients should be allowed to stay even for a single extra day.”
The report highlighted the disturbing fact that not even one cured patient should be present in a mental health hospital. Shockingly, over 900 of these patients were found to be housed in just four hospitals in West Bengal, leading Justice Mishra to condemn it as a “travesty of justice.”
To assess the situation and gather comprehensive data, the NHRC undertook visits to mental healthcare institutions and hospitals in Gwalior, Agra, and Ranchi. The findings from these visits prompted the Commission to take further action and deploy its special rapporteurs to all 47 mental healthcare institutions in various states.
The special rapporteurs’ extensive investigations culminated in a detailed report titled “Status of Implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017” in the country, which was unveiled during the conference. The report shed light on the challenges faced in the effective implementation of the act and the urgent need to address the issue of cured patients still residing in mental hospitals.
The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, was introduced to safeguard the rights of individuals with mental illnesses and ensure access to quality mental healthcare. However, the persisting presence of cured patients in mental hospitals reflects a significant gap in the system.
Experts in the field of mental health have long stressed the importance of timely and appropriate treatment for patients. A key aspect of recovery is the environment in which patients are treated and the support they receive to reintegrate into society after being cured.
The NHRC’s call for immediate action to release the cured patients from mental hospitals aligns with the principle of ensuring that mental healthcare institutions serve their intended purpose. The focus should be on creating an enabling environment for patients’ recovery and well-being, not prolonging their stay once they have been cured.
The situation in West Bengal, with over 900 cured patients still residing in mental hospitals, highlights a specific regional concern that requires urgent attention and intervention. It is essential for the authorities in the state to work collaboratively with the NHRC to find suitable alternatives for these individuals, ensuring their smooth transition back to their communities.
Moreover, this issue necessitates a nationwide review of mental healthcare institutions to identify and address similar cases in other regions. Ensuring that all cured patients are discharged from hospitals in a timely manner will not only alleviate unnecessary burden on healthcare facilities but also offer an opportunity for these individuals to reintegrate into society fully.
The NHRC’s comprehensive report serves as a wake-up call to the authorities and policymakers. The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, should be effectively implemented to protect the rights and well-being of individuals with mental illnesses. By addressing the challenges identified in the report, the country can take significant strides toward promoting a more inclusive and supportive mental healthcare system.
The plight of over 2,000 cured patients still housed in mental hospitals across the country requires immediate attention and action. Justice Mishra’s call to release these patients without any delay resonates with the essence of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, and emphasizes the importance of a patient-centric approach to mental healthcare. Addressing this issue promptly will not only uphold the principles of justice but also empower these individuals to lead fulfilling lives outside the confines of hospital walls.