Victoria Legal Aid

How to use this guide

This page explains the purpose of the 'Mental health law practice guide for lawyers' and how to use it.

This guide focuses on the Mental Health Act 2014External Link , the key legislation governing compulsory mental health treatment and the assessment and treatment of people with mental illness in Victoria. It came into effect on 1 July 2014 and repealed and replaced the Mental Health Act 1986 (Vic).

In this guide you will find information about the rights of people receiving (public) mental health services, particularly if they are made subject to compulsory assessment or treatment.

It also outlines the criteria, principles and procedures that apply, the obligations on mental health services and other decision-makers and the safeguards which apply even when a person is subject to compulsory treatment and other restrictive interventions.

Importantly, this guide contains practical information and tips about how you can best assist your client to understand and exercise their rights and options under the Act to achieve their desired outcomes.

Purpose of this guide

This guide will assist you to effectively advocate for clients subject to compulsory treatment at the Mental Health Tribunal. It will also help you assist your client with their concerns about mental health treatment more generally.

It contains information about the law and practical advice and tips to enable you to identify if the relevant processes, criteria, safeguards, rights and obligations under the Act have been complied with. It will help you to assist your client to take action to enforce their rights and the accountability of decision-makers and enable your client to exercise greater control over their mental health treatment.

You have a critical role to play

Lawyers have a critical role to play in ensuring the overarching principles and objectives of the Act are put into effect in practice.

Read more about Role of lawyers in the mental health law jurisdiction.

Language used in this guide

People have different experiences of mental illness and treatment and different views about the use of terms to describe their experience or their diagnosis.

Many people experience a diagnosis of mental illness as ‘labelling’ and stigmatising. Some people prefer to use the term ‘consumer’, while others may refer to having a ‘lived experience of mental illness’, or ‘living with mental illness’ or ‘experiencing mental health issues’. Others may prefer the term ‘psychiatric disability’ or refer to the fact they have been ‘diagnosed with mental illness’.

Doctors and other health professionals may refer to a person as a ‘patient’. What may be acceptable terminology to one person may be disempowering to another.

As this guide is designed primarily for use by lawyers and other advocates who will be using the provisions of the Mental Health Act, we have chosen to use the term ‘person’ or ‘person with mental illness’ for consistency with the Act where possible, or ‘client’ where relevant. Where necessary for legal accuracy, we have used the term ‘patient’.

More information

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Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 22 March 2022

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