New Delhi: The National Commission for Women has stressed the need to revamp the Mental Health Act 1987, in the light of the increasing number of mentally ill women ; nearly five million women in India are grappling with mental illness.
"Mental health in 21st century is a great threat. We think India needs to review its archaic law and broaden the scope of mental health," said NCW chairperson Girija Vyas.
On the occasion of International Women's Day Thursday, NCW will focus on women's mental health and ask the central government to do so as well.
"Nearly five million women are mentally ill and need special care but it seems we are not giving due attention," Vyas told reporters here.
Over the last 20 years India has witnessed many behavioural changes and mental illness is a major health menace that India's working population is faced with.
The present definition of "mental disorder" is very vague. Anxiety, depression and many other problems should be incorporated, she stressed.
"We are preparing a framework underlining our demand on this issue. We will recommend to the centre to emphasise on four issues - stringent law, broadening the scope of mental health definition, rehabilitation of mentally ill women and providing free legal aid," Vyas told IANS.
She said that sensitisation of both men and the police was very essential. "We are also going to incorporate it in our framework. Besides, we will take up the case with the finance ministry to allocate special funds for mental health treatment."
NCW is all set to conduct workshops, seminars and awareness camps across the country to dispel the stigma associated with mental health throughout 2007.
To start with, the body will organise a two-day mental health conference beginning Thursday to be inaugurated by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
According to experts, 8.1 percent of all disabilities in India are due to mental illnesses, as against 5.8 percent due to cancer and 4.4 percent due to heart diseases.
Said Nimesh G. Desai, medical superintendent at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, Delhi's only mental hospital: "Sexual abuse and exploitation are the main reasons for mental aberration in Delhi."
He added: "Many divorces are happening on the ground of mental illness and here women need free legal aid. We hope NCW, the government and NGOs will lend their support to fight their cause."
Desai said his hospital would partner NCW in all their efforts.