There are three types of orders for assessment and compulsory treatment:
- assessment orders – made by a mental health or a doctor to allow an authorised psychiatrist to examine you
- temporary treatment orders – made by an authorised psychiatrist for a maximum of 28 days
- treatment orders – made by the Mental Health Tribunal. They can only be made if you are already on a temporary treatment order.
Before any order can be made you must also meet all four treatment criteria.
You can only be given compulsory treatment at public mental health services and hospitals that are Designated Mental Health Services under the Mental Health Act 2014.
A mental health practitioner or a doctor will make an assessment order if they believe you appear to have a mental illness. You must meet these four criteria for an assessment order:
- you appear to have a mental illness
- you appear to need immediate treatment to prevent serious harm to yourself, serious deterioration in your mental or physical health, or serious harm to another person
- if an order is made, then you can be assessed
- there is no less restrictive means available to assess you including being assessed voluntarily.
The order allows an authorised psychiatrist to examine you to decide if you have a mental illness and require compulsory treatment under a temporary treatment order.
You can be examined:
- in hospital – an inpatient assessment order allows for 72 hours to transport you to hospital and then 24 hours to be examined when you arrived at the hospital.
- in the community – a community assessment order will only last for a maximum of 24 hours.
Either order can be can be extended twice (up to a maximum of 24 hours each time).
Temporary treatment orders
If you are examined by an authorised psychiatrist and they believe you meet all of the treatment criteria, you can be put on a temporary treatment order. The psychiatrist can't be the same doctor who made your assessment order.
In deciding whether the criteria apply, the psychiatrist must also consider:
- your views and preferences about treatment
- your reasons and recovery goals.
The temporary order can be a:
- community temporary treatment order – this order allows you to live in the community while receiving treatment for a mental illness
- inpatient temporary treatment order – this order says that you must be treated for a mental illness in hospital.
Temporary treatment orders last for a maximum of 28 days. You can apply to the order at any time.
Treatment orders can only be made by the Mental Health after a , and only if you meet all of the treatment criteria. The tribunal can also revoke a treatment order or temporary treatment order.
The tribunal will hold a hearing if:
- your temporary treatment order is about to expire (28 days), or
- the authorised psychiatrist applies for a treatment order because they believe you meet the criteria and your current treatment order is about to expire
- you apply to have your treatment order or temporary treatment order revoked – you can do this at any time by filling in an application and sending it to the tribunal, this can happen in hospital and in the community.
If you wish to apply for your order to be revoked, the sooner you do this, the sooner the revocation hearing will happen.
The tribunal can make a:
- community treatment order – you can live in the community while receiving treatment for mental illness. It lasts for a maximum of 12 months if you are 18 years or older
- inpatient treatment order – you must be in hospital while receiving treatment for a mental illness. It last for a maximum of six months if you are 18 years or older.
If you are under 18, both kinds of treatment orders can only last for a maximum of three months.
Read more about Going to the Mental Health Tribunal.
How an advocate can support you
If you are receiving compulsory treatment, you may feel you need help to understand and act on your rights in the mental health system.
Our independent advocates can:
- listen to what you want and talk to you about your options
- give you information and support to act on your rights
- work with you so you can have your say
- refer you to other services if requested.
Find out more about how we can support you.
We do not provide legal representation or specific advice about how the law applies in your particular situation. If you require legal help, ask your advocate to put you in touch with Victoria Legal Aid.
Reviewed 04 May 2022