Open J Psychiatry Allied Sci. 2017 Jun 30. [Epub ahead of print]
Scope of free legal aid clinics at psychiatric hospitals in India.
Hamza A, Sajitha K, Ragesh G, Thomas PT.
Background: Individuals suffering from mental illness and their families are vulnerable to face legal issues and the very nature of their illness may limit accessibility and effective utilisation of legal services. A few hospitals in India have free Legal Aid Clinics (LAC) but there is dearth of literature on the scope of LAC. Aims and objective: Objective was to understand the scope of LAC at psychiatric hospitals by analysing the profile of services users (SUs) and services provided at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, India. Material and methods: Analysed LAC records of randomly selected 100 SUs utilising services in the free LAC. All the SUs were assessed using a pre-designed proforma during their visit to the clinic. Results: Persons with mental illness (PwMI), their family members, and others without any psychiatric illnesses as SUs from various occupational, religious, socioeconomic background has approached the LAC. Their legal issues were various such as familial, property, mental health act related, labour laws, and other legal issues. The free legal aid service was utilised to avail various services such as legal advice, referral services, and brief mental health services such as supportive counselling by a multidisciplinary team consisting of psychiatric social workers and lawyers. Conclusion: Free legal aid services in hospitals are very useful in providing accessible and affordable legal help for the individuals and families affected especially for PwMI or other adversities. LACs need to be implemented in all psychiatric hospitals across the country.
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