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Mental health


I have a mental illness. Do I have to go to or stay in hospital?

You can go to a hospital or doctor yourself and ask for treatment. If you do this you are a voluntary patient.

While you are at a hospital you can be detained at the hospital by the written order of a senior mental health practitioner for six hours from when you seek to be discharged. This is so a psychiatrist can review you. The practitioner must suspect on reasonable grounds that you should be made an involuntary patient. You are free to go if you are not reviewed in six hours.

A medical practitioner or an authorised mental health practitioner can also refer you for an assessment. If within seven days of the referral being made:

  • you are not seen by a psychiatrist, or
  • taken to an authorised hospital

the referral lapses. During the assessment you are unable to leave.

If a psychiatrist does an assessment they may:

  • admit you as an involuntary patient
  • put you on a community treatment order
  • detain you for further examination in 72 hours, or
  • discharge you.

What is an involuntary patient?

Involuntary patients are those people who have been placed by a psychiatrist on an involuntary order under the Mental Health Act 1996 (WA).

There are two types of involuntary order that a psychiatrist can make:

  • that a person is to be detained in an authorised hospital as an involuntary patient
  • that a person is to be treated on a community treatment order (CTO).

If you are an involuntary patient you:

  • can be kept in a hospital against your will
  • may be given psychiatric treatment without your consent either in hospital or in the community.

What is a community treatment order?

This is an order that requires the patient to comply with the treatment plan but otherwise enables the patient to live in the community.

I am an involuntary patient. What are my rights?

The Mental Health Act 1996 (WA) sets out your rights. It requires that a patient on admission or commencement of a community treatment order, be informed of those rights orally and in writing in a language they can understand.

You should be given a copy of any order made about your detention, community treatment order, or apprehension.

You have the right to:

  • inspect and be given a copy of your personal records (there are exceptions to this including whether access to the records will have a substantial adverse effect on your health or that of some other person)
  • an interview with a psychiatrist at the hospital
  • be examined by a psychiatrist who is not your treating psychiatrist
  • as far as is practicable, store and use personal items
  • post and receive mail unopened
  • make and receive phone calls in reasonable privacy so far as is reasonably practicable
  • receive visitors of your choosing in reasonable privacy
  • speak to an official visitor
  • be represented before the Mental Health Review Board
  • confidentiality of personal information.

Your right to receive mail, receive telephone calls, and visitors may be withdrawn by a psychiatrist if they think it is in your best interests. There are limits on this and you can apply for a review of the decision to restrict or deny your entitlements.

What if I was made an involuntary patient and the Mental Health Act was not complied with?

If the requirements for making you an involuntary patient have not been met it may be that you have been illegally detained. You may have an action for false imprisonment against the hospital or other party. Get legal advice.

If you have been treated without your consent and you were not an involuntary patient or the subject of a community treatment order you may have grounds for an action in common law assault against the hospital or another party. Get legal advice.

There are also penalties, eg fines, in some situations if the requirements of the Mental Health Act 1996 (WA) are not followed.

Do time limits apply?

Yes there are time limits within which you must start legal proceedings for false imprisonment and common law assault. Get legal advice.

What if I am an involuntary patient and want the situation reviewed?

The Mental Health Review Board conducts reviews of involuntary patients. It can review the decision of the psychiatrist and decide whether any Order should remain in place.  To request a review form contact the Mental Health Review Board on (08) 9219 3162.

Who can apply for a review?

A written application may be made to the Board for the review by either:

  • the patient concerned, or
  • any other person who has genuine concern for the patient.

For more information go to the Mental Health Review Board web site.

What if I disagree with a decision of the Mental Health Review Board?

If a decision or order has been made about you by the Mental Health Review Board that you disagree with you may apply to the State Administrative Tribunal  (SAT) for a review of the decision or order.

Do time limits apply?

Yes. The time may be extended in certain circumstances.

What if I disagree with a decision of the State Administrative Tribunal?

You can appeal a decision of the State Administrative Tribunal to the Full Court of the Supreme Court on certain grounds. You should get legal advice before lodging an appeal.

What if I have been injured or abused while I was an involuntary patient?

If you have been injured or abused while an involuntary patient in an authorised hospital you may:

  • have a claim for criminal injuries compensation if you were injured as a result of a criminal offence and/or
  • have a claim for negligence against the person or hospital or institution responsible for your care.

Get legal advice.

For more information on criminal injuries compensation see Compensation for victims of crime.

What is negligence?

Negligence involves doing or failing to do something that a reasonable person would or would not do in a certain situation, and damage, injury or loss happens to someone as a result.

The hospital and its employees owe you a duty of care. What this means is that if their care of you fell below the standard that is expected and you were injured as a result, and suffered physical, mental or financial loss, you may have grounds for a claim in negligence. If you think this applies to you, you should get legal advice as soon as possible.

Do time limits apply?

Time limits apply for making criminal injuries compensation claims and for starting common law negligence claims. Get legal advice.

What if I have a complaint about a mental health service?

In most cases you should make your complaint firstly to the administrator or complaints officers of the health service.

If the complaint cannot be resolved at that level you can complain to:

Where can I get legal advice, assistance or representation?

  • Contact the Mental Health Law Centre on (08) 9328 8266  freecall 1800 620 285 for legal advice, assistance and representation to anyone whose legal issues are directly connected to a mental health problem.  
  • Contact the Council of Official Visitors on (08) 9226 3266 freecall 1800 999 057. It is an agency that ensures that people with a mental illness are aware of their rights and which can help you make applications to the Mental Health Review Board and provide support for your hearing.

Where can I get more information?

  • Contact the Mental Health Review Board on (08) 9219 3162 for information about the Mental Health Act 1996 (WA) and the review process.
  • See the online Mental Health Commission Mental Health Service Directory for information on mental health and support services in WA.
  • Go to Government of WA Mental Health Commission web site for information on mental illness.
  • Contact the Mental Health Emergency Response Line a free 24 hour telephone information service 
    on 1300 555 788 (metro) 1800 676 822 (Peel)  RuralLink 1800 552 002 (regional and remote areas).
  • Contact the Mental Illness Fellowship of WA which provides services for people affected by schizophrenia and mental illness on (08) 9228 0200.
  • Contact the  Health Consumers' Council of WA on (08) 9221 3422 or 1800 620 780 which advocates for consumers to government, doctors, other health professionals, hospitals and the wider health system.
  • Arafmi provides free support and information to family and friends of WA people with mental health issues. You can contact Arafmi on (08) 9427 7100 or for country callers on 1800 811 747.
  • The Specialist Aboriginal Mental Health Service (SAMHS) Metropolitan supports both Aboriginal consumers and carers in accessing mainstream mental health services, and in better meeting the needs of Aboriginal people. The metropolitan service can be contacted on (08) 9235 2400.
  • The COPMI (Children of Parents with a Mental Illness) website has information that may help parents, their partners, carers, family and friends in support of children with parents who have a mental illness.
  • The Personal Helpers and Mentors service (PHaMs) aims to provide increased opportunities for recovery for people over 16 whose lives are severely affected by mental illness. For more information on eligibility for this service and how to access it visit the PHaMs website.
  • You can find information that may help with recovery and promote mental health and well being on the RUAH Mental Health website. For mental health support from RUAH call (08) 9485 3939 or go to this RUAH website link to find out about support services.
  • The Western Australian Association for Mental Health has a website with information to support people affected by mental illness. 

Last reviewed: 04/04/2014

Last Modified: 04/04/2014


The material displayed on this page is intended for information only. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia believes that the information provided is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions.