Frequently Asked Questions
I am a patient:
The Mental Health Act and compulsory treatment
What is compulsory Treatment?
If you have a mental illness, a psychiatrist may examine you and decide that you need to receive treatment for the mental illness. A psychiatrist can only treat you as a compulsory patient if they are satisfied the four treatment criteria as set out in the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) apply to you.
Compulsory treatment is treatment you can get even if you do not agree to it.
An Order authorises your compulsory treatment. There are three types of compulsory treatment orders:
- Assessment Order – This is made by a registered medical practitioner or mental health practitioner and enables a further examination by an authorised psychiatrist who may decide that you meet the criteria for compulsory treatment and make a Temporary Treatment Order.
- Temporary Treatment Order – This is made by an authorised psychiatrist and may last for up to 28 days. If your psychiatrist believes you meet the criteria for compulsory treatment for longer than 28 days you will be entitled to a Mental Health Tribunal hearing where the Tribunal may make a Treatment Order.
- Treatment Order – This is made by the Mental Health Tribunal who will decide the duration of the order, and whether you need to be treated in hospital.
Why am I being treated as a compulsory patient?
Your psychiatrist has made a compulsory treatment order because they believe you meet all of the four treatment criteria as set out in the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic).
What are the four treatment criteria?
The treatment criteria as set out in the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) are:
- you have a mental illness; and
- because of the mental illness, you need immediate treatment to prevent:
- serious deterioration in your mental health or physical health; or
- serious harm to yourself or to another person; and
- immediate treatment will be provided to you if you are subject to a compulsory treatment order; and
- there is no less restrictive way reasonably available to enable you to receive immediate treatment.
I don’t want to be on a compulsory treatment order. What can I do?
You can apply to revoke the compulsory treatment order. This means that the Tribunal will hold a hearing to decide whether to revoke the order or to make a new treatment order.
If you are in hospital, you can ask for an application form from the nurses’ station. They will send the application to the Tribunal on your behalf.
If you are not in hospital, you can apply in the following ways:
Is there anyone that can help me through the compulsory treatment process?
If you are on a compulsory treatment order, you may be eligible for an advocate to support you to have your say about your assessment, treatment and recovery. You can call the Independent Mental Health Advocacy service on 1300 947 820 or visit their website.
What is the Tribunal's role in making decisions about electroconvulsive treatment (ECT)?
Information about the Tribunal’s role related to electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) is available here.
Before your hearing
When will my hearing be?
The Tribunal will send you a letter with the date of your hearing and where it will be held (this is a hearing notice).
If you have not received this letter yet, you can call the Tribunal to confirm your hearing date. Please call us on 9032 3200 or 1800 242 703 (toll-free).
The mental health service will tell you the time of your hearing.
Where will my hearing be?
Your hearing will be at either the hospital or clinic where you are receiving treatment. The Tribunal members will either be in the room with you or they may appear by video-conference.
If you do not want a video-conference hearing, please let someone in your treating team know, or let the Tribunal know by calling us on (03) 9032 3200.
Do I have to go to my hearing?
We would like you to go to your hearing because it is important for you to have your say about your treatment.
If you don’t go to the hearing, the Tribunal may make a decision without you.
Even if you don’t want to go to the hearing, you can still write down some notes about how you feel about your treatment. The Tribunal will send you a form called Your Report to the Mental Health Tribunal. You can use this form to help you prepare what you want to say.
If you have an Advance Statement you can provide a copy to the Tribunal for the hearing. More information about advance statements and how to make one is available here.
What are my rights at a Tribunal hearing?
A member of staff at your mental health service will talk to you about the Tribunal and your rights. They must also give you a copy of a Statement of Rights. This document sets out your rights while being assessed or receiving treatment for your mental illness
The Tribunal has also prepared information setting out your rights at a Tribunal hearing. The Tribunal will send this document to you with the hearing notice. You can download the information here.
Can my carer, friends or family come to my hearing with me?
Yes, you may bring any support person with you to the hearing.
You may also nominate a person to receive information and to support you during the compulsory treatment process. This person would be your Nominated Person. If you would like to nominate someone, you should ask your mental health service for a Nominated Person form. More information about nominated persons and how to make a nomination is available here.
How do I get an interpreter for my hearing?
Please let your mental health service know if you or your support person needs an interpreter. They will let the Tribunal know that you need an interpreter. The Tribunal will arrange an interpreter for you. You will not need to pay for this.
Please check here to see if more information is available in your language.
How can I prepare for my hearing?
You should read the report written by the treating team before the hearing. This report will tell you why they think you need compulsory treatment.
You can also see the documents the treating team will give to the Tribunal for the hearing. The mental health service must let you see these documents at least 48 hours before the hearing.
You can also write down some notes about how you feel about your treatment. The Tribunal will send you a form called Your Report to the Mental Health Tribunal. You can use this form to help you prepare what you want to say.
If you have an Advance Statement, please let the Tribunal know or provide a copy to the Tribunal at the hearing. More information about Advance Statements and how to make one is available here.
Victoria Legal Aid has also developed a useful booklet that may help you.
Can I see my clinical file before the hearing?
If there is a Tribunal hearing coming up, you have the right to see documents that are connected with your hearing at least 48 hours before the hearing. Usually, these documents will be a report your treating team prepares for the Tribunal and the current volume of your clinical file (or at least certain documents on that file). For more information you can read ‘Your right to access documents before your Tribunal hearing’ available here.
However, if your treating team believes that showing you a particular document may cause serious harm to you or someone else they can ask the Tribunal not to let you see that document. The Tribunal will make a decision about this before your hearing.
If you want to see other documents that are not related to the Tribunal hearing, you should speak with the mental health service. You may need to make a freedom of information application through your mental health service.
How do I get legal advice?
At your hearing
What will happen at my hearing?
Three Tribunal members will be at the hearing. They will be: a legal member, a community member, and a medical or psychiatrist member.
Someone from your treating team will be at the hearing to explain to the Tribunal why you need compulsory treatment.
The Tribunal members will ask you and the treating team some questions about your treatment. You can tell the Tribunal members how you feel about your treatment and your treatment goals. You can also ask your treating team some questions.
The Tribunal members will make a decision after they have listened to and read all of the relevant information given to them.
At the end of the hearing, the Tribunal members will tell you the decision they have made and why they have made the decision. They will give you a copy of the determination they make.
What decisions can the Tribunal make?
Most commonly, the Tribunal decides whether to make a Treatment Order, for how long and whether you need to be treated in hospital.
The Tribunal can make a:
- Community Treatment Order – you do not need to be in hospital while receiving treatment. This Order can be made for a maximum of 12 months if you are 18 years or older.
- Inpatient Treatment Order – you must be in hospital while receiving treatment. This Order can be made for a maximum of six months if you are 18 years or older.
If you are under 18 years old, a Treatment Order can only be made for a maximum of three months.
The Tribunal can also make an order about electroconvulsive treatment and neurosurgery for mental illness.
After your hearing
How do I get written reasons for the decision made at the hearing?
If you would like a written explanation for the decision made at the hearing, you can request a statement of reasons. You must make your request in writing and it must be made within 20 business days after the hearing. The Tribunal’s contact details are here.
You can find more information about statements of reasons here.
I don’t agree with the decision made at the hearing. What can I do?
If you don’t agree with the decision made at the hearing, you can do two things:
I don’t agree with my treatment. What can I do?
If you are worried about the treatment you are receiving, you should talk to your treating team first.
If you need help to talk to them, you can contact the Independent Mental Health Advocacy service on 1300 947 820.
You can also seek a second psychiatric opinion at any time. If you would like a second opinion, you should ask your mental health service. For more information about getting a second opinion you can visit the Department of Health and Human Services website.
How do I make a complaint about the mental health service?
If you have a complaint about your mental health service, you can raise your concerns with the service directly, or contact the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner on 1800 246 054 or visit their website.
How do I make a complaint about the Tribunal?
If you have a complaint about a Tribunal hearing or about services provided by the Tribunal, we encourage you to let us know. All complaints will be investigated and we will give you a written response.
If you simply want to provide feedback, we will acknowledge receipt of your feedback but no formal response will be prepared. If appropriate, your feedback may be used to review our current policies and procedures.
I am a carer / nominated person / guardian:
How do I get information from the Tribunal about a hearing?
The Tribunal is required to tell carers, guardians and nominated persons about a Tribunal hearing. We rely on contact details provided to us by the mental health service. If you believe you have provided your information to the mental health service but have not received a notice of hearing, please contact the Tribunal.
Can I go to the hearing?
You can go to the hearing if the consumer agrees. Your views about the consumer and their treatment are important to the Tribunal.
However, if the consumer does not want you to be at the hearing or is unable to agree to you being at the hearing, the Tribunal will decide whether they need to talk to you to make a decision.
Can I speak at the hearing?
You can speak at the hearing if the consumer agrees. Your views about the consumer and their treatment are important to the Tribunal.
However, if the consumer does not want you to speak at the hearing or is unable to agree to you speaking at the hearing, the Tribunal will decide whether they need to talk to you to make a decision.
Can I give the Tribunal information for the hearing?
Yes. However, any information you give to the Tribunal will need to be shown to the consumer before the hearing. The consumer has a right to know the information that is being considered at the hearing. If there is information that you want to give but think may be harmful to your relationship with the consumer, you should give that information to the mental health service (not to the Tribunal) and ask that they apply to stop the consumer from receiving the information. This is called an Application to deny access to documents.
Can I have access to the documents prepared for the hearing?
The Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) only requires the mental health service to give documents to the consumer for the hearing. There is no automatic right for you to access these documents. However, the consumer may show you these documents if they want you to see them.