Victoria Legal Aid

When police are called because of your mental health condition

Information about action the police, protective services officers or other authorised persons, may take if you appear to be mentally ill and are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else. This is known as a ‘mental health crisis response’.

Mental health laws in Victoria changed on 1 September 2023. You can read more about these important changes on the Department of Health websiteExternal Link .

Sometimes police and other ‘authorised people’ such as protective services officers may become involved with a person with a mental health issue, if there is a risk of suicide or a person hurting themself or someone else.

Police may also be involved if mental health professionals need help because a person on a compulsory treatment order is:

  • missing
  • refusing to attend for treatment
  • putting mental health service staff at risk.

When police and protective services officers can take you into their care and control

The police or a protective services officer (PSO) can take you into their care and control urgently if you appear to be mentally ill and they have a reasonable belief that you:

  • have recently attempted or are likely to attempt suicide
  • tried to, or attempted to, seriously hurt yourself or someone else.

The police, PSOs or other authorised people look at behaviour, appearance and other information in deciding whether to take you into custody for referral to a mental health service, but the police and PSOs cannot make a medical assessment.

To take you into custody, the police, PSOs or other authorised people may:

  • enter your home or another place
  • use force only if necessary.

A doctor or other mental health practitioner may be with police and PSOs when you are taken into custody, but it is the police and PSOs who make decisions about whether to use force and enter property.

If you are taken into custody, you must be assessed by a mental health practitioner or examined by a doctor as soon as possible.

Mental health assessment

You will have a mental health assessment to see if you meet the criteria to be on a compulsory treatment order. The assessment must be in person, can be anywhere, and the police must stay until the assessment is completed.

When police care and control ends

You stay in police custody until:

  • a mental health practitioner completes a psychiatric assessment, and:
    • recommends your release, or
    • gives authority for you to be transported by ambulance to hospital.
  • a doctor formally accepts responsibility for you so they can do a psychiatric examination, to decide whether to release you or recommend involuntary treatment
  • any law enforcement issues are sorted out.

Your rights

You have the right to be treated fairly by the police. If you believe you have not been treated fairly by a police officer or protective services officer you can make a complaint against them.

You have the right to complain about how you are treated by mental health practitioners. For more information about where to complain, or any other questions about your rights, go to get help.

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 31 August 2023

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