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  • Manasi Prabhakaran

Humanising Mental Healthcare: The Urgency for a Rights-Based Approach to Mental Health in India

As a caregiver and a practitioner of psychology, a critical inquiry that has guided my journey has been- what is the biggest singular issue that renders India’s mental health infrastructure ineffective and insufficient? After six years of learning and unlearning, the answer I have arrived at is the adoption of a universal rights-based approach to mental health.

Today’s India stands at a critical juncture regarding mental health care. Despite significant strides in various sectors, mental health remains largely neglected, plagued with pervasive issues of exponentially high burden of mental health disorders, stigma and lack of awareness, and most importantly, inadequate resources and ineffective infrastructure.

Why is a rights-based approach to mental health the need of the hour?

Firstly, a rights-based approach recognizes mental health as a fundamental human right. It recognizes that everyone, regardless of their mental health status, deserves dignity, respect, and access to high-quality care. In a country as diverse as India, where cultural views can influence perceptions of mental illness, a rights-based approach can challenge stigma and discrimination while encouraging acceptance and inclusivity.

Second, this approach highlights the value of empowerment and participation. It enables people with mental illnesses to actively engage in decisions about their treatment and care, promoting autonomy and self-management. Furthermore, it promotes the involvement of communities, families, and civil society in mental health efforts, thereby creating a supportive atmosphere favorable to rehabilitation and wellbeing.

Furthermore, a rights-based approach emphasizes the importance of fair access to mental health services. In India, there are major gaps in access to mental health care, with rural and marginalized communities suffering disproportionate obstacles. Prioritizing accessibility and affordability allows policymakers to ensure that mental health services reach those in most need, bridging the demand-supply gap.

In line with the expansion of the global mental discourse, a rights-based approach promotes responsibility and transparency in mental health policymaking. It advocates for the implementation of legislation and initiatives that protect the rights of people with mental illnesses, including safeguards against coercion, discrimination, and abuse. By holding governments and institutions accountable for maintaining these rights, India can foster an atmosphere that promotes holistic and person-centered care.

By recognizing mental health as a fundamental human right, empowering individuals, ensuring equitable access, and promoting accountability, India can pave the way for a more inclusive and compassionate society where every individual can thrive.


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