Rights of People with a Mental Illness

As well as the general intentions of the Act and appeal rights, the following important rights are covered:-

  • requirement that mental health professionals inform individuals of their rights, provide copies of any involuntary orders and variations to those orders and assist people to understand these, including using interpreters;
  • participation in own treatment and care planning;
  • privacy of personal information and when this can be shared for what purpose and with whom.

Note that voluntary patients retain the right to decide what involvement carers, relatives or friends have in their treatment and care; and the right to ask for the support of another person in interviews with mental health professionals. (This could be a guardian, medical agent, carer, relative, friend, and a representative of the Public Advocate or another advocate.)

What involvement can carers, relatives and friends have?

The Act recognises the importance of carers, relatives and friends as participants in the treatment, care and recovery of individuals with mental health problems.

The Act:-

  • allows for the sharing of personal information between mental health professionals and carers provided that this is in the best interests of the person under their care. If the person is under an order, information that is reasonably required for the care, treatment or rehabilitation of the person can be shared without consent;
  • sets an expectation that a guardian, medical agent, carer, relative or friend will be involved in treatment and care planning when someone is subject to an involuntary order;
  • requires that one of the above people receive a copy of all involuntary orders that are made, varied or revoked by psychiatrists or authorised medical practitioners;
  • provides for a statement of patient rights, unless such a person cannot be located or it is not in the best interests of the person with the mental illness.
  • allows these parties to lodge applications for community treatment orders, review of orders and appeal against decisions; and acknowledges the right to seek contact with a community visitor who visits the treatment centre.

What is SACAT and what does it do?

The South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is a legal tribunal which makes Detention and Treatment Orders and Community Treatment Orders. It hears appeals about orders made by mental health professionals. It also makes and reviews level 3 Detention and Treatment Orders and level 2 Community Treatment Orders. At a hearing, SACAT can confirm, vary or revoke an order, make an alternative order or direct that a Treatment and Care Plan be reviewed. SACAT has other monitoring and decision making responsibilities regarding prescribed treatment and the interstate transfer of involuntary patients.

What are Community Visitors?

The Act provides for the appointment of a Principal Community Visitor and the establishment of a scheme where people will regularly visit and inspect treatment centres and meet individuals who are receiving treatment. Patients and their families can ask to speak with a community visitor. [Note: this part of the Act is not in operation as at 1 September 2010].

Who can transport a person for assessment or treatment?

The following categories of people have particular authority under the Act to transport persons who are believed to have a mental illness or are the subject of certain orders.

  • mental health clinician;
  • ambulance officer;
  • medical officer or a flight nurse from the Royal Flying Doctor Service; or
  • member of the police force.

What happens if a person goes interstate?

The Act allows individuals who move between states and are subject to an involuntary mental health order to have their involuntary treatment pursued in another state/territory. This can only be done if there is a ministerial agreement with the other state/territory. Decisions can also be made to transport people who are subject to detention orders in a particular state back to that state.

Rights of People with a Mental Illness  :  Last Revised: Fri Sep 18th 2015
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