Mary - Compulsory patient in a public mental health service

Complaint story about a compulsory patient in a public mental health service.

Please note: this complaint includes experiences of harassment.

What Mary told us

Mary was admitted to a general ward at the hospital on a temporary treatment order, and felt shocked to be a compulsory patient. She told the MHCC that she wasn’t provided with any information about her rights and had not been able to telephone her lawyer privately. Mary also spoke of feeling intimidated and threatened by a particular staff member. She raised these issues with one of the treating clinicians after she had been discharged.

Mary told us she wanted to make a complaint so the service understood how traumatic her experience had been, and so other people wouldn’t have similar experiences.

Mary’s rights 

Victoria’s Mental Health Act 2014 and its principles protect the rights of people who are receiving mental health treatment from a public mental health service. The Act requires every compulsory patient to be given a copy of the compulsory treatment order and a written ‘statement of rights’.

In addition, the mental health principles most relevant to Mary’s complaint are:

a)  People receiving mental health services should be provided assessment and treatment in the least restrictive way possible with voluntary assessment and treatment preferred.

e)  People receiving mental health services should have their rights, dignity and autonomy respected and promoted.

g)  People receiving mental health services should have their individual needs (whether as to culture, language, communication, age, disability, religion, gender, sexuality or other matters) recognised and responded to.

What we did 

We assessed that Mary’s complaint raised a number of issues. These included a person’s right to communicate privately and to be given a statement of rights, and the principle that people receiving mental health services should have their rights, dignity and autonomy respected and promoted.

We asked the service to provide a formal response to the issues raised in the complaint, including steps taken to address Mary’s allegations against the staff member. The service did so, outlining a number of actions it was taking to comply with the Act and address Mary’s concerns. We also made formal recommendations to the service to improve their local complaints and investigation processes.

In addition, we facilitated a meeting so that Mary could tell the service about the impact of her experiences directly. The service representatives acknowledged her experiences, apologised, and confirmed that a number of actions were underway to ensure all staff were aware of their obligations under the Act. They also advised that the staff member had been counselled, but that there was the problem of different accounts and a lack of witnesses and other evidence. We asked the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Aphra) to review this matter.


Mary did not want to pursue her complaint any further. She said being heard by and receiving a direct apology from senior management was really important to her and that she felt the service had taken her concerns seriously. Mary also appreciated being asked to share her experiences as part of the service's staff training.

Reviewed 21 April 2021

Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC)

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