Independent Mental Health Advocacy

Self-help tool

We help you understand your rights and options when you are receiving compulsory mental health treatment.

I want to make a complaint

People who use public mental health services have the right to make a complaint and give feedback about their experiences.

  • Some common reasons are:

    • that someone's rights have been breached or they haven’t been respected
    • to fix something that has gone wrong during treatment
    • to prevent a mistake that occurred from happening to someone else
    • to make sure that the service improves after learning about your experiences.
  • Your mental health service

    You can complain directly to the mental health service by using their complaints form or talking to the manager. You can ask a staff member for the form if you can’t see it on the ward or in reception.

    The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission

    You can complain to the Mental Health and Wellbeing CommissionExternal Link (MHWC). The MHWC is an independent, specialist body established under the Mental Health and Wellbing Act 2022 to safeguard rights, resolve complaints about Victorian public mental health services and recommend improvements. The MHWC have information on how to make a complaint.External Link

    You cannot be persuaded, threatened, intimidated, coerced or influenced by another person to stop making or withdraw a complaint to the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner.

    The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency

    The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation AgencyExternal Link (AHPRA) is the organisation responsible for handling the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme. If your complaint is about an individual practitioner, you may make the complaint to AHPRA (1300 419 495).

Your rights

It can help to know your rights to include them in your complaint.

  • For example, you may make a complaint because your psychiatrist or mental health service did not:

    • let you know about your treatment options, and the purpose of any treatment option
    • give you information on your treatment options, including the pros and cons of each
    • provide you with enough time to make a decision about what you want.
  • This means that your treatments should be therapeutic to you and support you to participate in the community. For example, you may make a complaint where treatment has impacted your ability to maintain a job or relationship, or take part in hobbies and meaningful activities.

  • Your treatment should support your rights and dignity. You may make a complaint where you believe your treatment or the behaviour of staff violated your rights or dignity.

  • You should receive assessment and treatment, in the least restrictive way possible. What does this mean? It means that the psychiatrist must consider your treatment preferences, your recovery goals, and available alternative treatments. People may make complaints where their psychiatrist or mental health service has:

    • made a decision to use a restrictive intervention, such as seclusion or restraint, when other less restrictive options had not been tried or considered
    • kept you in hospital for assessment and treatment, when you could have been less restrictively assessed or treated in the community
    • failed to properly take into account your treatment views and preferences.
  • Your individual needs, such as your culture, language, communication, age, disability, religion as well as sexuality, should be respected. The law makes specific mention that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should have their distinct identity and culture respected. For example, you may make a complaint if you have not been offered an interpreter or Aboriginal health worker to support you.

How to make your complaint

Think about what you want to put in your complaint, and what resolution you are asking for.

  • It is your decision what you put in a complaint. Some people find the following points helpful.

    The issue(s)

    What is the specific issue(s) or complaint(s)? If there are multiple things you want to complain about, you can separate them into separate issues. This makes it clearer for you to think about what rights are important and what you want to resolve that issue. It also makes it clearer for the person reading your complaint.

    Your rights

    How does the law and your rights relate to your complaint. One issue in your complaint might relate to multiple rights. Remember that you can read about your rights above and on our website.

    What happened

    After you have identified the issue and your rights, you can explain what happened in more detail. For example, you may talk about the events that led up to an incident as well as how it has impacted on you.

    What resolution are you asking for?

    Think about how would you like the MHWC, mental health service or other organization to help you resolve the issue.

  • You can ask for whatever you think will resolve your complaint. Some common examples are:

    A meeting with the service

    You can ask for a meeting with the service to discuss your concerns. If you make a complaint to the MHWC, you can request a meeting between yourself, the service and the MHWC. You can bring a support person with you to these meetings.

    Apology from the service

    You can ask for an apology from the service. You can request to have this apology in writing or in a meeting.

    Answers or responses to your concerns from the service

    You can ask the service to account for or respond to your concerns. You may ask them to explain how their decisions have followed the law and protected your rights.

    Actions or changes from the service

    You can ask the service to make changes to how they work so that they learn from your experiences. These can be changes to staff training, policies and procedures, how they make decisions with consumers, and more information on rights.

    Ask the MHWC to investigate, conciliate, make recommendations and seek formal undertakings

    If you are making a complaint to the MHWC, you can ask the MHWC to investigate your concerns, to refer your complaint for conciliation, to make recommendations to the service and to seek formal undertakings.

    Compensation for harm you have received

    You can request compensation for harm you have received, or for support from the service to account for ongoing distress you are experiencing. If you want legal advice about compensation you can call Victoria Legal AidExternal Link (1300 792 387) or the Mental Health Legal CentreExternal Link (1800 555 887).

My Choices

Now that you have read about your options when making a complaint, please choose the ones you want to try. These will be put into your plan that you can print out or download.

Generate your plan

Reviewed 25 August 2023