How we helped an involuntary patient get her independence

How we helped an involuntary patient get her independence

About 20 per cent of our clients have a mental illness and many find it difficult to challenge a system that makes decisions on their behalf without legal help.

Find out how we helped Janet (not her real name) get her independence back so she could enjoy the social support of her community.

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Janet’s story

Janet has a mental illness and an intellectual disability. When we first met her she’d spent over a year as an involuntary patient in a hospital psychiatric unit.

The hospital allowed Janet regular leave to work three days a week at a local café. Janet was very proud of her job and the customers loved her. The owner of the café thought she was a fantastic worker and wanted to give her more shifts. But because Janet was an involuntary patient with limited leave, this wasn’t possible.

The hospital believed Janet’s mental illness couldn’t be treated in the community and that if she wasn’t detained for treatment, her mental health would deteriorate. Janet felt otherwise and craved to be independent and able to contribute to her community.

We helped Janet appeal her involuntary patient status

Janet asked one of our lawyers who regularly visited her psychiatric unit if she could help her. From that point we worked with Janet to appeal her involuntary patient status to the Mental Health Review Board (now the Mental Health Tribunal).

Janet was very nervous about the hearing, but we helped her to understand the main legal issues and prepared her so she could participate as much as possible. Her boss from the café came along and spoke about what an asset to the business she was.

The Mental Health Review Board agreed that Janet could live in her home while continuing to receive treatment from community mental health services. But when the hospital discharged her it added an extra condition that she had to live in a community care unit, a long way from her local area.

Janet was extremely unhappy living in the community care unit and found it hard to get to work. So we helped her launch a second appeal, which removed this condition.

Janet now lives at home, in the area where she grew up, and still works at the café.

How we can help you

If you are being treated for a mental illness and are unsure about your legal rights and options, find out how you can get help.