Calcutta, June 22: The determination of a scale to measure the degree of mental illness has opened an avenue for patients to claim the benefits of the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
They had been deprived of the assistance the government had earmarked for challenged persons for almost a decade as mental illness could not be quantified like other handicaps as demanded by the Act.
Now, with the evolution of the scale, the state government, at the instruction of the Centre, will sensitise mental health rehabilitation centres and parents of patients about the benefits offered by the Act.
The Act entitles handicapped persons to several benefits, including three per cent reservation of jobs in state government sectors and travel and transport facilities.
The law lays out seven categories of disability — blindness, low vision, leprosy, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, mental illness and mental retardation.
It says persons suffering from any of these forms of disability would have to be categorised in degree of handicap — either mild, moderate, severe, or profound. Only those belonging to the last three categories, that is, those with over 40 per cent disability, would benefit from the Act.
But mental illness could not be measured in degrees for so long. Only recently, the Indian Psychiatric Society has evolved a scale — IDEAS (Indian Disability Evaluation and Assessment Scale) — after determining the various parameters of mental illness. The scale has been accepted and notified by the Centre after some modifications.
The development will not only help the mentally- challenged avail of the benefits earmarked for the disabled in education, jobs and travelling, but could also spell hope for nearly 80 per cent of the inmates in the government’s vagrant homes who require psychiatric treatment but haven’t yet got it.