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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 – “the Mental Health Act” for short – covers situations where it is believed that person needs treatment for their mental illness, but they do not agree to this.

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, ss 57–59, 69, 110A

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).
  • 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.

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, s 59(4)

Note: The responsible clinician (see: “Definitions of key terms and descriptions of key people“) should, if possible, try to get the patient’s consent to any treatment, even when the patient is being treated under the Mental Health Act without their consent.

Main principles of the Mental Health Act

The Mental Health Act:

  • defines the circumstances in which a patient is required to have compulsory assessment and treatment
  • 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 patients’ 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.

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Mental health

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Te Hiringa Mahara/Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission

The objective of Te Hiringa Mahara is to contribute to better and equitable mental health and wellbeing outcomes for people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Website: www.mhwc.govt.nz

Health and Disability Commissioner

The Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) website sets out your rights under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights and how you can make a complaint to the Commissioner.

Website: www.hdc.org.nz
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz
Phone: 0800 11 22 33

To make a complaint online: www.hdc.org.nz/making-a-complaint/make-a-complaint-to-hdc

Mental Health Support

Publicly funded health and disability support services available in New Zealand:

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.

Website: www.health.govt.nz/our-work/mental-health-and-addiction/mental-health-legislation/mental-health-compulsory-assessment-and-treatment-act-1992/mental-health-district-inspectors

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