Communtity Law Manual | Mental health | The compulsory assessment process

The compulsory assessment process

Step 1: The application process

Who can apply to have someone assessed?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, ss 8, 8A

Anyone over 18 years old who believes that you may be suffering from a mental disorder, and who has seen you within three days of the date of the application, can apply to have you assessed to see whether you do have a “mental disorder” under the Mental Health Act. The application is made to the Director of Area Mental Health Services (DAMHS). (For the meaning of “mental disorder” and for information about the DAMHS, see “Definitions of key terms and descriptions of key people” in this chapter.)

Note: There’s a specific application form you’ll need to fill in. It’s not enough to just write a letter, even if you do cover all the required information (listed below under “What must an application say?”). You can get a copy of this application form by contacting the mental health crisis team in your area (called a “CATT” team – for “Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team”). They will also give you helpful information about how to apply and about how the compulsory assessment process works. You can find contact details for local CATT teams at www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis

What must an application say?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, ss 8A, 8B

An application to have someone assessed must be in writing and must include the following information:

  • why the applicant thinks that you have a mental disorder
  • what the applicant’s relationship is to you
  • a statement that the applicant has seen you in the last three days
  • a certificate from a doctor or nurse who has examined you in the last three days. The certificate must say there are reasonable grounds for believing that you have a mental disorder.

The person who makes the application will need to arrange for the doctor or nurse to provide the certificate. (But in some cases, the doctor or nurse issuing the certificate may be the person who applies for compulsory assessment.)

Whoever the applicant is, the doctor or nurse who issues the certificate will inform the local mental health services. The Director of Area Mental Health Services will then arrange for an assessment examination.

What are my rights after an application is made?

Once an application is made to have you assessed, you become a “proposed patient” under the Mental Health Act, which means you have all the patient rights set out in that Act. You also have the relevant rights set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Both sets of rights are explained in this chapter under “Your rights as a mental health patient”.

Can I be made to accept treatment at this stage?

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, s 110A

No. However, if it’s a doctor, rather than a nurse, who issues the certificate for the application, the doctor can give you a sedative without your consent. They must believe that you are a significant danger to yourself and that urgent sedation would be in your best interests.

If you are given a sedative without your consent, the doctor must tell the DAMHS in writing. If you think you shouldn’t have been sedated, you can make a complaint to a district inspector.

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