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March 6, 2023 7:27 pm

Why Isn’t Mental Healthcare Act 2017 Being Implemented in J&K? 

Representational Photo by Abid Bhat

THE crisis of mental health issues in Jammu and Kashmir is quite evident. Over the years, the figures coming out of J&K have only painted a picture which is getting grimmer by the day. In a recently published report which quoted from a joint study published recently by the University of Southern California and All India Institute of Medical Sciences AIIMS- New Delhi, a considerably high percentage of people (11%) suffer from dementia in Jammu and Kashmir. Of these 11%, over 60% are prone to getting affected by Alzheimer’s disease as well. In fact, dementia is not a single disease but encapsulates a range of disorders affecting the brain.

Dementia isn’t the only problem that plagues J&K’s mental health scenario. Anxiety disorders, depression and PTSD are prevalent in the Kashmiri population in high numbers. Year after year, reports have kept mapping the deteriorating condition of mental health in Kashmir. The uptick in suicides, especially during covid-19 pandemic, had also raised an alarm about a crisis that keeps getting worse. Very recently, a young 16-year-old from Sopore died by suicide. Yet another 21-year-old college student from Sugen Khag district in Budgam also died by suicide recently.

Non implementation of Mental Healthcare Act 2017

While much has been talked about the crisis, one aspect that is often overlooked is that of legislation. One would have assumed that after the abrogation of Article 37 in August 2019, central laws pertaining to mental health would have been implemented in J&K. However, this is not the case. For instance, Mental Health Care Act 2017, a central law has not been working optimally. Interestingly, the act was extended to J&K even when the article was intact.

In Jammu & Kashmir, the obsolete Mental Health Act 1987 is being followed by the authorities at helm of affairs. The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 which  repealed the Mental Health Act 1987 is not being followed. This law was enacted to conform with the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which is an international human rights convention which sets out the fundamental human rights of people with disability.

As per the provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017, the Government has to constitute Central Mental Health Authority, State Mental Health Authorities and Mental Health Review Boards. The state mental health authorities are to be set up even in UTs with a legislature like J&K. The State Mental Health Authorities have been entrusted to supervise all mental health establishments of the State including UTs with legislature. In most of the Indian states, including J&K, these authorities are not functional.

Functions of State Mental Healthcare Authority

As per the section 55 of the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 the State Mental Healthcare Authority shall

(a) Register all mental health establishments in the State except those referred to in section 43 and maintain and publish (including online on the internet) a register of such establishments

(b) Develop quality and service provision norms for different types of mental health establishments in the State.

€ Supervise all mental health establishments in the State and receive complaints about deficiencies in provision of services.

(d) Register clinical psychologists, mental health nurses and psychiatric social workers in the State to work as mental health professionals, and publish the list of such registered mental health professionals in such manner as may be specified by regulations by the State Authority.

€ Train all relevant persons including law enforcement officials, mental health professionals and other health professionals about the provisions and implementation of this Act.

(f) Discharge such other functions with respect to matters relating to mental health as the State Government may decide. The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 says that the mental health establishments in the State  before the commencement of 2017 Act, under the Mental Health Act, 1987 or any other law for the time being in force, shall be deemed to have been registered


In a place with concerning figures on mental health issues, as a welfare state, the Government has failed to enforce Mental Healthcare Act 2017 and doesn’t have a defined Mental Health Policy. Infact, only three states: Karnataka, Kerala and Meghalaya have a mental health policy. The J&K administration must urgently make the State Mental Healthcare Authority operational and must also start drafting its Mental Health Policy in consultation with experts and civil society.

  • Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback