Mental health principles

Mental health principles

Another key element of the new framework under the Act is the inclusion of mental health principles at section 11(1) of the Act.

Mental health service providers and other individuals and bodies which are performing functions or exercising powers under the Act must have regard to these when providing those services, performing those functions and exercising those powers (s. 11(2) and (3)).

Rights of people receiving mental health services

The mental health principles articulate specific rights for all people receiving mental health services, regardless of age and their status as either compulsory or voluntary under the Act.

Section 11(1) provides that a person receiving mental health services should:

  • be provided assessment and treatment in the least restrictive way possible with voluntary assessment and treatment preferred
  • be provided with mental health services with the aim of bringing about the best possible therapeutic outcomes and promoting recovery and full participation in community life
  • be involved in all decisions about their assessment, treatment and recovery and be supported in making or participating in those decisions and their views and preferences should be respected
  • be allowed to make decisions about their assessment, treatment and recovery that involve a ‘degree of risk’
  • have their rights, dignity and autonomy respected and promoted
  • have their medical and other health needs (including any alcohol and other drug problems) recognised and responded to
  • have their individual needs (including culture, language, communication, age, disability, religion, gender, sexuality or other matters) and characteristics (including Aboriginal culture and identity) recognised and responded to
  • (if they are an Aboriginal) have their distinct culture and identity recognised and responded to
  • (if they are a child or young person under 18 years old) have their best interests recognised and promoted as a primary consideration, including receiving services separate from adults, whenever this is possible.

Rights of family members, carers and support people

Additional mental health principles also provide explicit recognition and respect for the rights and role of some family members and carers of a person receiving mental health services.

Section 11(1) requires that:

  • children, young persons (under 18 years old) and other dependents of persons receiving mental health services should have their needs, wellbeing and safety recognised and protected, and
  • carers (including children) for persons receiving mental health services should be involved in decisions about assessment, treatment and recovery, whenever this is possible, and should have their role recognised, respected and supported.

The definition of ‘carer’ is the same as in the Carer’s Recognition Act 2012 (Vic). This is a person (regardless of their age) who provides ‘ongoing support, assistance or personal care’ to another person because of that person’s mental illness, disability, chronic medical condition or because they are older, and will depend on the nature of their relationship and whether it can be defined as a ‘care relationship’.

Just because someone is the spouse, partner, parent, child or relative of the person does not necessarily mean they are a ‘carer’, nor does the fact that they live with them. Under the Mental Health Act, ‘carer’ does not include a parent of a child under the age of 16 years.

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