Independent Mental Health Advocacy

Receiving compulsory mental health treatment can be lonely and distressing. It is important to know that you have rights and options.

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What is a compulsory treatment order?

A treatment order lets a hospital or mental health clinic give you treatment even if you don’t want it. There are different types of treatment orders. The main difference is where you are treated:

  • community treatment order – a community treatment order lets a service give you compulsory treatment while you are in the community
  • inpatient treatment order – an inpatient treatment order means that you must stay in hospital while you get compulsory treatment.

Decisions about compulsory treatment orders are usually made by a psychiatrist in a public clinical mental health service or the Mental Health Tribunal.

The Mental Health TribunalExternal Link makes decisions about treatment orders and whether people can receive electroconvulsive treatment. The tribunal is independent, and not part of a hospital or clinic.

Do I have rights?

Yes. Under the law you have rights and protections. Three important rights here are:

  • to be told why you have been placed on a treatment order. You can ask to have a conversation with your psychiatrist about this
  • to apply to have your treatment order revoked or changed by the tribunal
  • to have a second psychiatric opinion

How can I talk to my psychiatrist about my treatment order?

Under the law, the psychiatrist must explain to you why you have been placed on a treatment order. You can ask the psychiatrist to explain why you meet the 'treatment criteria'.

What are the treatment criteria?

To be on a treatment order, you must meet all four criteria:

  1. you have a mental illness
  2. because of your mental illness you need immediate treatment to prevent:
    • serious deterioration in your mental or physical health, or
    • to prevent serious harm to you or another person
  3. the prosposed treatment will be given to you if you are put on a treatment order
  4. there is no less restrictive way, reasonably available, for you to get treatment that is needed.

How can I appeal my treatment order?

You can apply for the tribunal to revoke your order by filling out a form. You can ask the mental health staff for their help to get and fill out this form.

You can call the Mental Health TribunalExternal Link (03 9032 3200 or 1800 242 703) or email (

You can call Victoria Legal AidExternal Link (1300 792 387) or the Mental Health Legal CentreExternal Link (03 9629 4422) for free legal advice and assistance.

How can I get a second psychiatric opinion?

You have the right to a second psychiatric opinion. The opinion assesses whether you meet the treatment criteria, and whether your treatment needs to change.

Three common ways to get a second opinion are:

  • Second Psychiatric Opinion Service (1300 503 426) – you can ask for a free and independent second psychiatric opinion or visit their website Link
  • internal second opinion – you can ask another psychiatrist at the mental health service to agree to meet with you
  • private psychiatrist – if you know a private psychiatrist, you can contact them. You may want to ask if they can bulk bill you, or you may need to pay yourself. The Your Health in Mind websiteExternal Link can help you find a psychiatrist.

You can download our template to prepare your own notes for your Second Psychiatric Opinion Service appointment

Download this fact sheet

This fact sheet is available in IMHA design or First Nations design.

Get help from IMHA

If you are on a compulsory treatment order, our advocates can support you to have your say about your assessment, treatment and recovery. Learn how to get help from IMHA.

Reviewed 22 October 2023


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