About the Mental Health Act 2014 and its principles

About the Mental Health Act 2014 and its principles

The Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) provides for the assessment and treatment of people with mental illness within the public health system, including prescribed hospitals and public health services under the Health Services Act 1988 (Vic) and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health ('Forensicate').

It also provides for the appointment of the Chief Psychiatrist and community visitors and establishes the Mental Health Tribunal (replacing the Mental Health Review Board) and the new Mental Health Complaints Commissioner.

Focus of the Act

The Mental Health Act came into effect on 1 July 2014. It sets out a framework intended to:

  • minimise the use and duration of compulsory treatment
  • promote supported decision making and recovery-oriented practice
  • increase safeguards to protect a person’s rights and dignity
  • ensure compulsory treatment is provided in the least restrictive and least intrusive manner
  • better facilitate carer and family involvement in treatment and care
  • encourage continuous improvement in the public mental health system.

It includes articulating a person’s rights to:

  • assessment of and treatment for mental illness in the least restrictive way possible, consistent with their rights to autonomy and dignity (s. 11(1)(a) and (e))
  • be presumed to have the capacity to make their own decisions about treatment (s. 70)
  • make and be supported to make their own decisions about treatment where possible (s. 11(1)(a) and (c))
  • make decisions that involve a degree of risk (s. 11(1)(d))
  • make an advance statement that sets out the person’s views and preferences about treatment that must be considered before compulsory treatment can be given (ss. 19–22)
  • communicate privately with people outside a mental health service, including lawyers specifically, and have visitors (ss. 14–18)
  • nominate a person, who can receive information and support the person to make decisions and who must be consulted at key points under the Act (ss. 23–27)
  • request second psychiatric opinions (s. 79)
  • only be subjected to restrictive interventions such as restraint and seclusion in limited circumstances and after all reasonable and less restrictive options have been tried or considered (s. 105)
  • be given information and have it explained in a way that the person is best able to understand (s. 8).

The Act also has greater recognition of the role of family members, carers and others in supporting a person with mental illness.

Some of these rights are reflected in the objectives at section 10 of the Act.

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