Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) – know your rights

Title: IMHA Know Your Rights

Producer: Independent Mental Health Advocacy

Name of speaker: Muskaan Ahuja and Ellisa Scott (all speech content)

Speech Content:

Sometimes people can receive compulsory treatment, which means you will be given treatment even if you don't want it. You still have rights. Rights are rules that are meant to protect you under the law. When you are receiving compulsory treatment, there are rules that Mental Health Services have to follow. 

If you are receiving voluntary treatment and do not feel at risk of being compulsory, you can contact the Victorian Mental illness Awareness Council on 9380 3900, to find out more about your rights and receive advocacy if needed. 

Now, let's talk about what your rights are when you are receiving compulsory treatment. 

When you are on a compulsory treatment order, you have the right to be involved in all decisions about your assessment, treatment, and recovery. When you are placed on a compulsory treatment order, you have the right to be told why you have been placed on a treatment order, you can ask to have a conversation with your psychiatrist about this. Receive the least restrictive treatment possible. Apply to have your treatment order revoked or changed by the tribunal if you do not agree with it. And, get a second psychiatric opinion. 

You have the right to be communicated with in a way that meets your needs, such as in your preferred language, in an appropriate physical or sensory environment, and having appropriate spaces for you to communicate with your family members, kin, carers, supporters or advocates.

Do I have a say in decisions about my treatment? Yes. The law states that you should be supported to make or be involved in decisions about your assessment treatment and recovery. More specifically, it says your treating team must seek your informed consent for all treatments where you have capacity, provide you with information about the proposed treatment and other treatment options, and support you to make decisions about your treatment, even where these involve a degree of risk. Risks are a normal part of everyday life, and you should be supported to take positive and thought-out risks. 

Do I have the right to complain? Yes. Under the law you can make a complaint about a public Mental Health Service. You can make a complaint directly to the service or to the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission. You can visit their website at or call on 1800 246 054. You can also contact the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency on 1300 419 495, if you feel like a mental health practitioner, such as a psychiatrist or a nurse, has done something wrong, broken the law or put your safety at risk.

If you are concerned about your treating team, you have the right to request a change. Some reasons that you might request a change in your treating team are they are not respecting your rights or responding to your needs. Your treating team must respect your rights and must respond to your individual needs, including those relating to culture, language, communication, age, disability, religion, gender, or sexuality.

The law also says that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must have their distinct culture respected and responded to. This means, for example, you may request an Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Worker to support you. 

If you are receiving compulsory mental health treatment in hospital, you have the right to ask for some time away from the hospital. This is often called a leave of absence. The Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, which provides leadership to mental health services, says that leave is a right, not a privilege. 

If you feel unsafe while receiving compulsory mental health treatment, you have the right to speak up and feel safe. Under the law, you have the right to mental health services that are safe, consider your needs, and take into account any prior traumatic experiences you might have had, to have your individual needs respected and responded to, and receive the least restrictive assessment and treatment possible.

Making an advance statement of preferences is one way that you can tell the treating team what you want as part of your treatment. An advance statement of preferences is a document you can make. It explains what you want to happen if you receive compulsory treatment. You can include information about what do you want your treating team to know about you?

For example, what treatment has worked or not worked for you? Any specific triggers or prior trauma that might affect your treatment? Or, what helps you when you feel distressed or overwhelmed? Information about what kind of care and support you want and do not want? What helps you to communicate or understand information or explain what you want? For example, do you need written information, hearing aids, reading glasses, or if you need an interpreter?

You can also state, if you want the mental health service to inform or share information with your nominated support person or advocate? You have the right to support. You can choose someone to help you. Your treating team must help you contact a support person. If your support person would like to access assistance for themselves, they can contact Tandem Carers on 1800 314 325.

A nominated support person is someone you formally choose to receive information and support you while you are receiving compulsory treatment. Your nominated support person must be consulted about treatment and can support you, help you express your views and what you want, receive information about your treatment, and help you to exercise any of your rights. Your nominated support person must be informed about your treatment and consulted for their opinion at key stages of your assessment, treatment, and recovery. Your nominated support person must advocate for what you say you want, not what they want. The Mental Health Service must take all reasonable steps to support your nominated support person in their role. 

Your service must give you a statement of rights. This is a document about your rights when receiving compulsory treatment. The service must explain the Statement of Rights, give you a copy of your order and explain why you're on an order. 

If you do not agree with your compulsory treatment order, you can appeal it at the Mental Health Tribunal any time. To do this, you can ask the Mental Health Service for a Mental Health Tribunal application form or contact the Tribunal directly on 1800 242 703.

You also have the right to legal advice. You can contact Victoria Legal Aid on 1300 792 387 or the Mental Health Legal Centre on 9629 4422 or the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service on 9020 1494. 

You have a right to a non-legal advocate. IMHA will be notified when you are receiving compulsory treatment, and we will contact you unless you have told us not to.

When we contact you, we will explain what we do, and you can decide if you want our support. We will contact you by phone, or we may come to see you when we are visiting the inpatient unit. You can also call us if you need support. 

What happens if you don't hear from us? You can call or email us. We may have tried to call you on your mobile and you don't have it with you, or your phone number has changed. 

If you would like help to speak up about what you need and want, you can get in contact with IMHA, we're here to help. You can visit our website at You can contact us via email at You can call our phone line on 1300 947 820, seven days a week between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Or you can call and listen to a free audio recording of your rights on 1800 959 353 at any time. You can ask your service, carer, or support person to help you contact us. You can ask us for an interpreter if you need one. 

For more information about your rights, see our fact sheets displayed at your service or visit our website. You can also scan this QR code to take you directly to the website.

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