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Mental Health Rights & Principles

Below are a series of 13 resources with images you can use as reference to understand, educate and communicate rights under the Victorian Mental Health Act, 2014 (the Act). You can also use them to support someone who is seeking to gain a stronger understanding of their rights under the Act.

How to make a complaint:

RIghts and the Principles according the the Mental Health Act 2014:

Victoria's Mental Health Act 2014 contains 12 principles that are important for you to know and understand. These principles guide how Victorian mental health services should provide assessments and treatment.

If you feel that a service hasn’t followed these 12 principles for yourself or someone you care for, you can make a complaint directly to the mental health service provider or you can contact us and we can talk to you about your options.

1. Assessment and Treatment

The Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) states that mental health services should ensure you:

  • are provided assessment and treatment in the least restrictive way possible
  • are provided assessment and treatment with the aim of bringing about the best possible health outcomes while promoting recovery and full participation in community life
  • are involved in all decisions about your assessment, treatment and recovery and be supported to make, and participate in those decisions.
  • have your views and preferences heard and respected
  • are allowed to make decisions about your assessment, treatment and recovery that may involve a degree of risk.

If you feel these haven't been followed by a mental health service provider you can make a complaint directly to the service or contact us.

2. Individual needs

You should feel that you are seen as an individual during assessment and treatment at a Victorian public mental health service. While you are receiving care, services should ensure that:

  • your views and preferences are respected
  • your rights, dignity and autonomy are respected and promoted
  • your medical and other health needs are recognised and responded to
  • your individual needs (such as culture, language, communication, age, disability, religion, gender, sexuality or other matters) are recognised and responded to
  • Aboriginal persons have their distinct culture and identity recognised and responded to

3. Information for carers

Did you know that the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) sets out how mental health services are expected to engage with carers?

The Act states that:

  • if a consumer provides their consent, carers should be involved in decisions about assessment, treatment and recovery, whenever this is possible
  • carers should have their role recognised, respected and supported.
  • the Tandem Support and Referral ServiceExternal Link (phone: 1800 314 325) can provide support, information and referral to family members, friends and carers of people living with mental health challenges. You can also ask a mental health service about various supports available for you as a carer.

4. Information for young people and children

If you are a child or young person who is receiving mental health services you should have your unique needs, well-being and safety recognised and protected.

The Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic)External Link states that the service should have your best interests recognised and promoted, including receiving services separately from adults, whenever this is possible.

5. Advance Statements

You can have a say about your treatment preferences with an Advance Statement.

An Advance Statement is a written document that sets out your mental health treatment preferences.

The statement must be signed and dated by you and an authorised witness. An authorised witness can be a registered medical practitioner, a mental health practitioner or someone who is authorised to witness a statutory declaration.

You must be given an explanation (including in writing if you request it) if your psychiatrist decides to not follow your Advance Statement. You can change your Advance Statement by making a new one.

You can access Independent Mental Health Advocacy's (IMHA) template for Advance Statements here.External Link

6. Nominated Persons

If you are receiving treatment in the Victorian public mental health system, you have the right to choose someone to be your Nominated Person.

A Nominated Person can provide support to you, help communicate your views and preferences about your treatment, receive information about you from your treatment team, and be one of the people consulted about your treatment. They can also assist you to exercise your rights under the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic)External Link and help enact your Advance StatementExternal Link . Your Nominated Person must agree to take on this role and be willing and available to fulfil their responsibilities if needed.

You must put your nomination in writing and the role of Nominated Person can be withdrawn or changed at any time by either you or themselves. This will also need to be done in writing.

To help you with a nomination, the Victorian Department of Health has created a NP1 nominated persons form that outlines the different steps involvedExternal Link .

7. Compulsory Assessment and Treatment orders

The Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) sets out your rights when you are receiving compulsory mental health assessment and treatment.

All Victorian mental health services must respect these rights and explain these rights to you during assessment and treatment. You can also get help to understand your rights from the Independent Mental Health Advocacy or IMHAExternal Link (phone: 1300 947 820).

If you feel that the rights haven’t been upheld or supported for yourself or someone you care for, you can make a complaint directly to the mental health service, or you can contact us.

8. Statement of Rights

A statement of rights is a written document that sets out your rights under the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) while you are receiving assessment or compulsory treatment in relation to your mental illness.

Steps must be taken to ensure you are given a written statement of rights when a compulsory treatment order is made. A psychiatrist or clinician must also verbally explain the statement in a way that you understand and give you an opportunity to ask questions. Your nominated person, carer or guardian should also receive a copy of the statement.

If you, or someone you care for hasn’t received a statement of rights, during assessment or treatment, you have the right to ask your treating team or service to provide one to you.

9. Compulsory Treatment Order

If you don’t agree with your compulsory treatment order, you have the right to:

10. Taking leave from hospital

While receiving compulsory mental health inpatient treatment, you have the right to ask for temporary leave from hospital. This can include leave to receive medical treatment or for another purpose if it is considered appropriate.

You can talk with your treating team about the reasons you want leave for yourself or someone that you care for.

11. Your right to communicate

You have the right to communicate lawfully with any person you choose while you are receiving compulsory assessment or treatment in hospital.

An authorised psychiatrist can restrict this right if they believe it is necessary to protect your health, safety and well-being, or that of another person. However, they can’t stop you from communicating with a lawyer, an IMHA advocateExternal Link (phone: 1300 947 820), the Mental Health TribunalExternal Link (phone: 1800 242 703), the Chief PsychiatristExternal Link (phone: (03) 9096 7571), the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (phone:1800 246 054), or a community visitor from the Office of the Public AdvocateExternal Link (phone: 1300 309 337)

If you feel this right hasn’t been upheld, you can make a complaint directly to the mental health service or contact us.

12. Your right to complain

If you feel that your rights, or the rights of someone you care for, have not been upheld while receiving mental health assessment or treatment, you can make a complaint directly to the service or you can contact us.

Our role is to safeguard people’s rights, resolve complaints and recommend service and system improvements. More information about your rights and our approach is available. You can also read about what to expect when you make a complaint with us here.

It is important to remember that complaints can improve the Victorian mental health system for you and other people.

Find out more about what you can expect when you make a complaint with the MHCC here.

Reviewed 11 April 2023

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