There are three types of orders for assessment and compulsory treatment:
- – made by a or a doctor to allow an authorised psychiatrist to examine you
- – made by an authorised psychiatrist for a maximum of 28 days
- – made by the Mental Health Tribunal. They can only be made if you are already on a temporary treatment order.
You can only be given compulsory treatment at public mental health services and hospitals that are Designated Mental Health Services under the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022.
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.
Least restrictive means you need to be given as much freedom as possible, based on your individual circumstances.
For an assessment order to be made you must appear to have a mental illness, rather than the psychiatrist deciding you actually have a mental illness.
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.
An order should not be made if the possible harm from it is likely to be more than the harm it is intended to prevent.
You should be given a copy of your 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 for a maximum of 24 hours each time.
The psychiatrist can revoke (cancel) the order if they think you no longer meet the criteria.
Temporary treatment orders
If you are examined by an authorised psychiatrist and they believe you meet all of the , 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.
A psychiatrist can change whether you get treatment in the community or as an inpatient at any time if they think it’s the least restrictive option.
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 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 up to 6 months (or up to 3 months if you are under 18).
- inpatient treatment order – you must be in hospital while receiving treatment for a mental illness. It lasts up to 6 months (or up to 3 months if you are under 18).
If you are under 18, both kinds of treatment orders can only last for a maximum of three months.
Before your order ends, the Mental Health Tribunal may consuct a hearing to decide if (another) treatment order should be made.
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.
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 25 August 2023