Civil commitment of persons with mental illness: Comparison of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 with corresponding legislations of the USA

Indian J Psychiatry. 2019 Apr;61(Suppl 4):S821-S826. doi: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_81_19.


The policies and procedures for the treatment of psychiatric patients are within the boundaries of ethical and legal principles of medical practice, with equal importance to human rights and values. Both in India and the USA, the Mental Health Legislation/Act guides psychiatrists in performing their duty toward the patients within this framework. The objective of this review was to compare the Indian Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA) of 2017 with mental health legislations currently existing in the USA, taking New York State Mental Hygiene Law as an example. The evolution of the American mental health legislation over the years was reviewed, including the aspects of involuntary admissions and segregating the psychiatric patients from the community. Over the years, the assessment and treatment approaches inclined toward patient's "rights and liberty" such as assessment of competency to make decisions, the involvement of family members and mandatory requirement of procedure to be followed during admission, inpatient care, and discharge. The current American mental health system is compared and contrasted with MHCA 2017. In the context of existing American mental health legislation and practical issues, this review tried to anticipate possible shortcomings or difficulties that can occur during the implementation of MHCA 2017. Several differences and similarities exist between the two legislations. Added to this, in America itself, there are smaller variations in mental health legislation in each state, albeit the general principles remain the same. Whether this is going to be the case in India once the individual states form the rules is worth a consideration.

Keywords: Legislation; Mental Healthcare Act 2017; Mental Hygiene Law; New York State; USA; mental illness.

Publication types

  • Review