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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.

How do you apply?

There’s a special 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 does an application have to say?”).

You can get a copy of this application form by contacting the mental health crisis team in your area. They’re called a “CATT” team – which stands for “Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team”. You can find contact details for local CATT teams at www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis

The CATT team will also give you helpful information about how to apply and about how the compulsory assessment process works.

What does an application have to 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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Mental health

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Health and Disability Commissioner


This “Mental health and addictions” webpage has information and pamphlets about mental-health services, including information for families and whānau.

Since the Mental Health Commission ceased to exist in 2012, the functions of the Health and Disability Commissioner have included monitoring mental health and addiction services and promoting improvements to those services. A specialist Mental Health Commissioner position was established in 2012 as part of the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Ministry of Health Services and Support


List of publicly funded health and disability services available in New Zealand.

Mental Health Foundation


The Mental Health Foundation has useful links and resources for people dealing with mental health issues. Helplines:


1737 call or text to talk


1737 is a completely free service to call or text 1737 any time, 24 hours a day. You’ll get to talk to (or text with) a trained counsellor.

Mental health district inspectors


You can find a list of district inspectors on www.health.govt.nz if you search for “mental health district inspectors”

District Inspectors are lawyers appointed by the Minister of Health to protect the rights of people receiving treatment under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, or the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003.

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