The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day (10 October) is “Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority.” In order for mental health to be deemed a global priority, we first need to ensure that the acts and policies that are in place to provide mental health services are being properly implemented. Internews’ Jaya Shreedhar discusses how a tracker is helping journalists to better investigate how the mental health care act in India is being implemented.
Making mental health a priority at home, as well as community, provincial, and state levels, begins with the awareness that everyone has a right to accessible, affordable, good-quality, mental health care, and treatment. In India, the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 (MHCA) was enacted in 2018 to protect and promote the rights of persons living with mental health conditions and to enable their access to public mental health services in the country. According to NIMHANS data, more than 80% of people in India do not access mental health care services.
The MHCA is an example of aspirational legislation that seeks to find a balance between protecting the decisional autonomy of persons with mental illness while also ensuring their right to access care and treatment.
However, it’s been over four years since the MHCA came into force, and the implementation of the Act is sluggish.
To tackle this, the MHCA 2017 Implementation Tracker was created with the help of journalists covering the legal aspects of mental health, the Keshav Desiraju India Mental Health Observatory, an initiative of the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy, Indian Law Society and a strategic partner of the Internews Health Journalism Network.
The MHCA Tracker
The MHCA tracker is a resource that journalists can use to track the implementation of the 2017 Mental Health Care Act across various Indian states.
Journalists can play a key role in making audiences aware of the tools that are available to people to realize their rights to mental health services
Journalists can refer to the tracker to identify where and how the non-functioning of key regulatory bodies affects the delivery of mental health services. This information can be used to inform investigative stories that can hold state authorities to account.
Journalists can also upload links to these news stories into the tracker and update it, making the resource a truly collaborative, first-of-its-kind effort between mental health professionals and the news media. The tracker also monitors the news and lists news coverage of instances where the MCHA has been invoked across some of India’s most popular digital news outlets such as Nagal and Post, Times of India, Sentine Lassam, and Daily Excelsior.
Here is a quick visual guide on how to use the MHCA Tracker.
Our hope is that the tracker to become widely known in the journalist community to spur thinking and stories that will help shape a respectful environment for people with mental illness.