Protecting the Rights of People with Serious Mental Illness

Tasmania is leading the way in safeguarding the rights of people with serious mental illness with new legislation coming into effect on 17 February, 2014.

The Mental Health Act 2013 is a major step forward in reforming the legal framework for mental health treatment in Tasmania.

Under the previous legislation, a person could be treated without consent and detained without treatment.

The new Act balances the rights of the consumer with the need for treatment and taking a strong, human rights based approach.

It establishes a substitute decision-making framework for people with a mental illness who, because of their illness, cannot make decisions about their own assessment and treatment. This means a new Mental Health Tribunal will have responsibility for decisions about the type of treatment and the setting in which it will be given.

One of the key features of the new Act is that it recognises a person with the capacity to make their own decisions has the right to do so, and ensures they cannot be assessed, treated or detained against their will.

The Mental Health Act 2013 is strongly consumer-focussed, and aims to simplify the treatment pathway by clearly outlining the rights and obligations of consumers and health care professionals.

The Act also recognises the important role carers, family members, support people and representatives play in the treatment and recovery of someone with a significant mental illness.

It contains guiding principles to enable the involvement of carers, family members, representatives and support people to the highest level possible, while also respecting individual consumer wishe.

Implementation of the new Act had been led by a Steering Committee and a range of Reference Groups that included clinicians, consumers and carers.