Victoria Legal Aid

New mental health laws for a new era – we're in your corner

People receiving compulsory mental health treatment will have better access to support under the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act.

Thursday 31 August 2023 11:30pm

‘If it had not been for IMHA and my amazing advocate Zara, and them talking me through the situation I was in … I probably would have been put on a six- or 12-month order. IMHA saved my life.’ - consumer Robbie Dettmann.

People on compulsory mental health orders will have better access to support so they can understand and exercise their rights under new laws coming into effect today.

Under the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022 (Vic)External Link , every person receiving compulsory treatment in Victoria will be connected to an advocacy service providing them with support and information so they can have as much say as possible about their assessment, treatment and recovery.

This service will be delivered by Independent Mental Health AdvocacyExternal Link (IMHA), which has been named Victoria’s first ever non-legal mental health advocacy provider.

People will be supported to ensure they understand and have what they need to use their rights, including an advocate who can assist with amplifying their voice.

This is the first time advocacy support will be automatically offered to anyone receiving compulsory treatment in Victoria, with only Western Australia offering a similar opt-out service.

Robbie’s story

It was as if I had found myself in a foreign country and I was being held. The question was: who was holding me and why?

It was my first time in a mental health unit and I wasn’t provided with any information or my legal rights.

I found a Post-It note on a wall and the words: ‘Independent Mental Health Advocacy’.

Thank God I’d paid attention at school and was able to deduct that these words meant help! Help is the understatement.

If it had not been for IMHA and my amazing advocate Zara, and them talking me through the situation I was in, in simple language I could understand, I probably would have been put on a six- or 12-month order that the hospital had no right to put me on – and which would have meant I would have lost my home, my job, my possessions and worst of all, my beautiful little dog who had never spent a night away from me in seven years.

IMHA saved my life.

And now that it is becoming an ‘opt out’ service under the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act, everyone will be informed of this amazing service that not only ensures your rights are upheld, but more often than not, finds an outcome that is far better than if you didn’t have their help.

They may even save all that is important to you, like they did for me.

The mental health system can and has destroyed lives unnecessarily, but now with the opt-out for IMHA, there is at least one really important safety mechanism to help ensure it doesn’t continue to do so.

What is IMHA?

IMHA is a free and confidential advocacy service. It is a non-legal service.

We can support you to:

  • understand information about your assessment, treatment, care and recovery
  • make decisions about your assessment, treatment and care
  • understand and exercise your rights
  • make an advance statement of preferences
  • appoint a nominated support person
  • seek a second psychiatric opinion
  • seek legal advice
  • apply to the Mental Health Tribunal
  • understand and access the mental health and wellbeing service system
  • express your decisions, views and preferences to your mental health and wellbeing services and others
  • make a complaint.

With consent, our non-legal advocates often speak on behalf of consumers to share their views to their mental health service to try and get the outcome they want.

Linking all consumers with advocacy support

IMHA has been around since 2015.

We offer free advocacy support and information for anyone receiving or at-risk of receiving compulsory treatment.

Previously, people needing help had to contact us.

From September, we contact you.

Under the Act, we will be notified whenever someone is placed on a compulsory treatment order and at various points of an order.

This can include when you are placed on a temporary treatment order or you are transferred from one designated mental health service to another, for example, from an acute unit to a Secure Extended Care Unit at another designated mental health service.

Under the Act, we will then contact you to offer our free advocacy support and information.

If you don’t want the service we won’t contact you again, and you can tell us not to contact you at any time.

You can also change your mind at any time and let us know.

Tell IMHA not to contact you by:

Linking consumers with a non-legal advocacy service was one of the key recommendationsExternal Link of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System in 2021.

New resources for consumers and staff

While the service we offer won’t change, we’ve extended our phoneline hours to weekends so consumers can call us seven days a week.

These useful resources are free and available to access online:

More information

Visit IMHAExternal Link to learn more about non-legal mental health advocacy.

Read the key changesExternal Link from the 2014 Mental Health Act.

Read Simona’s story.

Reviewed 03 September 2023