Mental health laws and rights
Good mental health involves a sense of wellbeing, confidence and self-worth. It enables us to fully enjoy and appreciate other people, day-to-day life, and our environment. However, sometimes people can lose their sense of wellbeing and become mentally unwell. On occasions when their welfare is at risk (or if others welfare is at risk) they may need to be treated without their consent in hospital or in the community. They become what's known as an involuntary patient. The law that enables that to happen is called Mental Health Act (2014) (Act).
The Act relates to:
- when a person can be provided with mental health treatment
- the criteria for referring a person for an examination by a psychiatrist
- when a person can be made an involuntary patient on an inpatient treatment order or a community treatment order
- how inpatient treatment orders and community treatment orders operate
- the rights of persons with mental illness and their personal support persons.
The Mental Health Commission (MHC) is responsible for the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the Act and the Mental Health Regulations. Mental Health Act 2014 resources are available to help key groups understand and apply the Act:
- mental health professionals
- referrers to mental health services
- people experiencing a mental illness
- people supporting a person with a mental illness
- non-government organisations and private psychiatric hostels
- transport officers.
Consumer handbook to the Mental Health Act 2014 (Handbook) is an invaluable resource for the community regarding understanding the Act. The Handbook has been prepared to help people experiencing mental illness and their family members, to navigate the mental health system and uphold their rights. This handbook has been written by people with lived experience of mental illness it is user friendly, relevant and informative. The Handbook outlines:
- consumer and carer rights
- assessment, referral and examination
- hospital admission, treatment options and discharge
- further opinions
- community treatment orders
- the roles of the Mental Health Advocacy Service, the Mental Health Tribunal and the Chief Psychiatrist
- complaints and feedback pathways.
The Handbook also sets out the Charter of Mental Health Care Principles (Charter). The legislation is built around 15 principles described in a Charter of Mental Health Care Principles. Mental health services and private psychiatric hostels must always consider these principles when they are providing treatment, care and support to a person experiencing mental illness. The Charter applies to voluntary and involuntary patients.
Who can assist me?
- The Mental Health Advocacy Service on (08) 6234 6300 or 1800 999 057 (freecall from a landline). It is a free independent service ensuring all users are informed of their rights, their rights are observed and their wishes made known.
- The Mental Health Tribunal on (08) 61453900 for information about the Mental Health Act 2014 (WA) and the review process.
- The Mental Health Law Centre on (08) 9328 8012 or 1800 620 285 (freecall from a landline) for legal advice, assistance and representation for anyone who has legal issues directly connected to a mental health issue.
What if I have a complaint about a mental health service?
If you have a complaint about the provision of care by mental health services or if you believe the Charter has been breach, the first step is to contact the hospital or health service where you were treated. Often raising your concerns directly with the service is the most effective way of resolving complaints. Instructions for lodging a complaint and links to consumer liaison officers at hospital and health services can be found on the WA Department of Health, Healthy WA website.
If you are unhappy with the response from the service or feel uncomfortable approaching the service directly there are a number of organisations that can assist with complaints and provide support, their contact details can be found at the MHC website. The Health Consumers Council can assist you to make a complaint about any health service mental health related or not, to speak to an Advocate call (08) 9221 3422, Freecall 1800 620 780 (country only) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If the complaint cannot be resolved, you can approach the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office. Contact the complaints and enquiries line Monday to Friday 8.30am - 4.30pm on (08) 6551 7600, or country freecall 1800 813 583.