Victoria Legal Aid

Rights of people receiving compulsory treatment

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

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

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

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

Mental health principles

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

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

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, and
  • 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 provide information about the restriction and the reason for it. They must inform you, your nominated person, a guardian, a carer, or a parent if you are under the age of 16.

However, an authorised psychiatrist can't stop you from communicating with:

More information

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

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for mental health and disability.

Publications and resources

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 06 May 2022

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