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Interview With Dr. Vipul Singh.

India, Aug. 15 -- The Mental Healthcare Bill 2013, seeking to decriminalize suicide attempts and strengthen the mental healthcare system in the country, recently passed by Rajya Sabha has drawn huge applause from medical fraternity, psychiatrists in particular. But not all have failed to read in between the glossy lines and spot the grey areas that steal the beauty of the bill.

Noted psychiatrist Dr. Vipul Singh gave his views on the Bill in an exclusive interview with Tisy Jose for Indian Currents. With over 20 years of experience in treating mentally ill people, Dr. Singh has been Associate Professor in Department of Psychiatry - GSVM Medical College, Kanpur and Government Medical College, Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh.

IC: The Mental Healthcare bill 2013 has recently been passed by Rajya Sabha. How happy are you about this new measure?

Dr. Vipul: The said Bill has its plus and minus points. I haven't yet gone through it in detail, which needs time. One big negative point is of the involvement of judiciary in all the matters of mentally ill patients. Already judiciary is overburdened and works at a very slow pace, which will be a big problem.

IC: What according to you are the merits and demerits of this bill?

One good point is that the bill is liberal enough to designate any person from medical background to be declared as psychiatrist for purpose of medical boards at state and central authority level. This will take care of the extra burden on government psychiatrists for medico legal purposes. Already we have very few psychiatrists, working in government sector and medical college psychiatrists want to avoid doing medico legal work. One of the big demerits of the bill is that you can only give modified ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) for which you require help from anesthetist. Already use of ECT is slowly going down and this restriction will again lead to a limited use of one of the very effective modes of treatment.

IC: Do you think this bill will increase the suicide rate in India under the pretext of mental illness?

I don't feel that by removing IPC 309, there will be increase in the level of suicide. In fact our national body of psychiatrists (Indian Psychiatric Society) always wanted this section of IPC to be removed. We feel that in majority of cases (more than 90%) of attempted suicides, there is some form of mental illness involved; which we feel is a type of disease that requires treatment. Moreover, majority of the public till date don't know that attempted suicide was punishable under IPC and in majority of the cases it's an impulsive decision by the patient under stress.

IC: Passing a bill is the easy way, but the government should take urgent measure for mental healthcare and stress management in India? What's your take?

Stress management has to be taken care of not by the government alone; the society in general has to actively work out ways to decrease stress levels.

IC: How should the government boost up stress management in India?

I would say that government should actively work out ways to rehabilitate mentally ill patients. Rehabilitation of mentally ill patients will not only bring down the burden on the society, but will also decrease the stress level of the family members of mentally ill patients. Rest of the work on stress management should be carried out by NGOs and society in general.

IC: What is your experience in handling mentally ill in India?

The biggest problem in treating mentally ill patients is to rehabilitate them and to provide free medicines to really poor patients who can't afford it. Their family also needs a support system to bring down their stress level.

IC: What do you suggest to remove the stigma around mental illness in India?

Media and society in general have to work hard to remove stigma around mental illness. Media should avoid highlighting only negative news about mental illnesses and make mockery of mentally ill patients. They should convey the message to the public that mental illnesses have effective line of treatment. Patients and their family members should maintain a regular follow up with the doctors treating them.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Aug 15, 2016
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