A new Mental Health Bill to replace the current Mental Health Act is scheduled to be presented to the Cabinet soon.
The Sri Lanka College of Psychiatrists has drafted the Bill which has since been sent to the Legal Draftsman’s Department.
Senior Lecturer (Grade II) at the Department of Psychiatry of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya and President-elect of the College, Dr. Shehan Williams pointed out that to receive treatment for mental health was the right of persons with mental health issues and legislation in this regard should allow treatment to be obtained and received at any hospital and healthcare facility.
He said that both the State and Private medical sectors should be available for persons with mental health issues and not be confined to the National Institute of Mental Health in Angoda as the existing law dictates. All other Government and private hospitals and healthcare service facilities in the private sector are not covered under the present law and even during dire circumstances mentally ill persons cannot be admitted anywhere else other than to the National Institute of Mental Health at Angoda despite services been expanded island-wide through specialists and hospital units that specialize in treating patients with mental health problems.
Currently, a mentally ill person must be taken to the Government Agent, then to a Court and subsequently to Angoda.
This is a cumbersome procedure, especially when it involves Police stations and the transportation of a patient to a jurisdiction outside the scope of a particular Police station.
“Mental health literacy within the country is less and therefore has to be improved”, Dr. Williams explained. “The safety of staff working in mental healthcare services and the community living with such afflicted individuals too should be guaranteed”.
Dr. Williams emphasized that mental illness can be treated and that mentally ill persons recover and are able to live productively.
“They must be allowed to live in the community, the treatment recommended should be managed and monthly progress must be monitored. With regard to unfair treatment, sometimes persons are deemed mentally ill for political reasons and detained”, said Dr. Williams.