Receiving compulsory mental health treatment can be lonely and distressing, you may feel like you have no say in what happens to you. But you do have rights under the Victorian Mental Health Act 2014 (the Act) to speak up and be involved in your treatment.
What is self-advocacy?
Self-advocacy involves asking for what you need, negotiating and knowing your rights. You can do it on your own or with the support of an advocate or other person.
Know your rights
You can learn more about your rights with the following resources:
- a copy of your order – you must be given a copy of your order when you are put under a compulsory treatment order. This explains why the psychiatrist believes that you should receive compulsory treatment
- know your rights – read our Know your rights information, ask your mental health service or call 1800 959 353 to hear a free recording of your rights
- statement of rights – you must be given a copy of your statement of rights when you are put under a compulsory treatment order. If you haven’t been given a copy, you can ask your treating team, or find it on the Department of Health and Human Services .
- Mental Health Principles – Mental Health Act, section 11 has principles that explain what all mental health services and bodies should follow.
For more information, speak to a staff member or IMHA advocate.
What you can do to self-advocate
Ask questions and take notes
It’s difficult to make your own decisions if you don’t have important information. You can prepare questions for meetings and write down the answers
Go to the right decision-maker
Make sure you go to the right person for your specific problem. For example, psychiatrists make decisions about compulsory treatment, medication and leave, while a nurse in charge makes decisions about your room or changing staff members
If you have a meeting, it can be useful to make a specific agreement. Ask staff to write it down or take your own notes
Make a complaint
You can make a compliant to the health service or the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC) by calling 1800 246 054 or visit . If you are considering making a complaint, read I want to make a complaint about my mental health service.
Ask for a second opinion
You can ask for the health service to arrange a second opinion or contact the Second Opinion Psychiatric Service (SPOS) by calling 1300 503 426 or emailing email@example.com.
- Policies and procedures – you can ask for the health service’s internal policies and procedures, or see the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist’s guidelines for best or call them on (03) 9096 7571
- National Standards for Mental Health Services – these standards include a focus on human rights for people using services. All services must comply with these standards. They are available on the Department of Health and Human Services .
- Victoria Legal Aid resources – in-depth information on the Mental Health Act 2014. You can learn more about the law by visiting or call 1300 792 387.
Download our self-advocacy model and plan
Our self-advocacy model and plan are available in IMHA design or First Nations design.
Stories about people speaking up for their rights
Farah has been receiving mental health services for 25 years. Farah says her current case manager has been treating her badly by not listening to her and being rude.
Farah has recently learnt that she has rights. She sits down and prepares her self-advocacy plan using the Know your rights resources.
Read Farah's story.
Emmanuel was brought to a Secure Extended Unit (SECU) four months ago. Since being in there, the treating team has been increasing Emmanuel’s medication. The treating team are concerned that the medications might create physical health issues for Emmanuel, so they want to keep him in the SECU to be monitored.
Emmanuel disagrees with the treating team about this medication increase and wants to be treated voluntarily in the community. Emmanuel decides that he needs to speak up.
Read Emmanuel's story.
Alex is on an inpatient treatment order (in the hospital) and wants to change their psychiatrist. Alex wants to change psychiatrist because the psychiatrist is not listening to Alex nor supporting their goals.
Read Alex's story.
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 12 August 2022