Rights of people receiving compulsory treatment

Read our legal information about COVID-19 coronavirus.

Rights of people receiving compulsory treatment

The Mental Health Act 2014 sets out the rights of people receiving mental health services (such as treatment), and their children and carers. These principles must be considered by those providing those mental health services.

People must be told about their rights under the Act, and the process of being assessed or treated, including the right to:

  • communicate
  • have their preferences considered
  • get support to make treatment decisions.

Mental health principles

The Act sets out the following principles for people receiving mental health services:

  • They should be provided assessment and treatment in the least restrictive way possible with voluntary assessment and treatment preferred.
  • They should be provided with services that aim to bring about the best possible therapeutic outcomes, and promote recovery and full participation in community life.
  • They should be involved in all decisions about their assessment, treatment and recovery and be supported in making or participating in those decisions. Their views and preferences should be respected.
  • They should be allowed to make decisions about their assessment, treatment and recovery that involve a ‘degree of risk’.
  • They should have their rights, dignity and autonomy respected and promoted.
  • They should have their medical and other health needs (including any alcohol and other drug problems) recognised and responded to.
  • They should have their individual needs (including as to culture, language, communication, age, disability or other characteristics, including Aboriginal culture and identity) recognised and responded to.
  • If they are children or young people, that their best interests are the primary consideration, including receiving services separate from adults, where possible.
  • Their children or other dependents should have their needs, wellbeing and safety recognised and protected.
  • Their carers should be involved in assessment, treatment and recovery decisions, where possible, and have their role recognised, supported and respected.

Psychiatrists, doctors and staff at mental health services, as well as the Mental Health Tribunal, must consider these principles when deciding what happens to you.

Statement of rights

If you are being assessed for or are put on a compulsory treatment order (temporary or longer term), you must be given a copy of the order and a 'statement of rights’. This statement is a document that sets out your rights under the Mental Health Act 2014 and the process for you being assessed or receiving treatment.

When you are given the statement, the psychiatrist must also make sure that someone:

  • explains verbally what the statement is and what is in it in a way you can understand
  • answers any questions you may have as clearly and fully as possible.

If you are not capable of understanding the information in the statement, they must make further attempts to explain it at another time, when you are able to understand it.

The right to communicate freely

You have a right to communicate lawfully if you are being held for compulsory treatment.

Communication is being able to:

  • send or receive letters
  • make or receive telephone calls
  • communicate via electronic means
  • receive visitors at a mental health facility at reasonable times.

You should be allowed to communicate privately and without censorship.

An authorised psychiatrist can restrict your right to communicate if necessary to protect your health, safety and wellbeing or that of another person.

An authorised psychiatrist who restricts your right to communicate must take reasonable steps to inform you, your nominated person, a guardian, a carer, or a parent if you are under the age of 16 of the restriction and the reason for it.

However, an authorised psychiatrist can't stop you from communicating with a lawyer, the Mental Health Tribunal, the Chief PsychiatristMental Health Complaints Commissioner or a community visitor from the Office of the Public Advocate.

More information

For information about how you can have your preferences for treatment respected and protect your rights see Having control over your treatment.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with mental health and your rights.

Was this helpful?