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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 [ss 7(1), 9, 12, 23, 27] - see the Chief Psychiatrist's website at Statement of rights ;
  • arranging for an interpreter to assist during any examination of a person who is unable to communicate adequately in English [s 45];
  • participation in own treatment and care planning [ss 7(1); 40(2)(b), 41(2)(b)];
  • the right to be supported by a guardian, medical agent, relative, carer or friend, advocate, or community visitor [s 47];
  • privacy of personal information and when this can be shared for what purpose and with whom [s 106].
  • prohibition on the use of a spit hood by any person performing a function, or exercising a power under the Mental Health Act 2009 (SA)

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 appointed Community Visitors will regularly visit and inspect treatment centres and meet individuals who are receiving treatment [ss 50-52]. Patients and their families can ask to speak with a Community Visitor. In certain circumstances visits and inspections may occur by audiovisual or other electronic means [s 52B].

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 either a community treatment order or an involuntary inpatient order to have their treatment pursued in another state/territory involuntarily if necessary. 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 [s 70] and for people subject to interstate community treatment orders to undergo treatment in South Australia [see sections 68-69].

Where a person is transported and detained for treatment under these circumstances they must be given a statement of rights as soon as practicable. A guardian, medical agent, relative, carer or friend of the person must also be notified that the person is being treated for their mental illness in South Australia or has been transported interstate for treatment [s 70].

Rights of People with a Mental Illness  :  Last Revised: Wed Dec 8th 2021
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.