What do people make complaints about?

Find the issues in public mental health services the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC) receives the most complaints about.

Most complaints to the MHCC involve more than one issue. Every complaint is different.

Complaints to us suggest, however, that many people don’t feel they have a say in their mental health treatment decisions. Consumers with their families, carers and support people have the right to be informed and participate in decisions about their treatment and should be supported to do this. If they are not, they should be able to raise their concerns with their treating team, and make a complaint if they don’t feel their concerns are addressed.

The most common issues people make a complaint to the MHCC about are as follows:


Mostly about disagreement with treatment orders, and people not feeling that their views and preferences have been heard. For example, about whether they are treated at home or as an inpatient and have access to treatment options other than medication (including psychological support).


Mostly about receiving inadequate, incomplete, or misleading information. This is an issue for both consumers, and their families, carers and support people.

Staff conduct and behaviour

Mostly about staff manner, such as rudeness, or a lack of respect, empathy or compassion.


Mostly about disagreement or dissatisfaction with medication, such as its side-effects.

The infographic below shows the most frequent issues raised in complaints to the MHCC in 2019-20:

Complaint themes

What do people complain about - infographic (alt text within data field)
Complaint themes

Level 1* issues raised in 2019-20

75% Treatment

37% Communication

30% Conduct and behaviour

29% Medication

15% Diagnosis

12% Access

12% Facilities

10% Record management

10% Complaint management

Most frequent Level 3* issues raised in 2019-20

19% Treatment: Inadequate consideration of the views/preferences of compulsory patients

13% Treatment: Lack of care/attention

12% Treatment: Disagreement with treatment order

12% Communication: Inadequate or confusing information provided to consumers

11% Medication: Side effects from medication

10% Conduct and behaviour: Rudeness, lack of respect, or discourtesy

10% Treatment: Inadequate consideration of the views/preferences of family members/carers

10% Diagnosis: Incorrect or disputed diagnosis

8% Treatment: Inadequate consideration of the views/preferences of voluntary consumers

7% Communication: Lack of communication with family members/carers

*The MHCC uses three levels to categorise issues raised in complaints. As one complaint may have one or more issues, the same complaint may be represented across several issue categories

Download Complaint themes

Find some examples of common complaint themes and how they were resolved, in Complaint stories.

Reviewed 13 April 2021

Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC)

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