Overview of the mental health laws
What the Mental Health Act does
When a person experiences mental illness, they usually get to make their own decisions about their treatment. The Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 covers situations when it is thought that a person needs treatment for their mental illness, but they do not agree to this.
If you become a patient under the Mental Health Act:
- your right to refuse treatment can be overridden during various stages of the assessment and treatment processes (see “The compulsory assessment process” and “Compulsory treatment orders” in this chapter)
- you do not get to choose who will be in charge of your treatment (but you do have the right to request independent psychiatric advice, to get a second opinion)
- you can be made to stay in hospital.
Note: The responsible clinician (see below) should, if possible, try to get the patient’s consent to any treatment, even when the treatment is authorised under the Mental Health Act without the patient’s consent.
Main principles of the Mental Health Act
The Mental Health Act:
- defines the circumstances in which compulsory assessment and treatment can happen
- emphasises community-based care, with patients being sent to hospital only when necessary, in as free an environment as possible
- emphasises how important it is to respect a patient’s cultural values and beliefs during their assessment and treatment
- emphasises consultation with patients’ family or whānau
- sets out patients’ rights when they are being assessed or treated.