Mental health treatment

If someone needs help for a mental disorder but doesn’t agree they need help, you can ask your local Mental Health Services to assess the person under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act.  If the assessments indicate the person needs compulsory treatment, the mental health service can apply to the Family Court for an order for compulsory treatment.

If you think someone is at risk of harm, you can call 111 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department or phone your local mental health crisis team (external link)

Reasons for compulsory mental health assessment & treatment

The Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act sets out the reasons a person may be ordered to have a compulsory psychiatric assessment and treatment. The law aims to ensure that both vulnerable people and the public are protected from harm.

The term mental disorder is a legal definition not a medical one. It covers more than just mental illness. Legally, a mental disorder means an abnormal state of mind that:

  • poses a serious danger to the health or safety of that person or someone else, or
  • means the person can't take care of themselves.

If someone becomes a patient under this Act, their right to refuse treatment can be overridden and the court can order a patient to turn up for any assessments and treatment, including having to stay in hospital.

A person can't be made to have a compulsory assessment or treatment because of their:

  • political, religious or cultural beliefs
  • sexual preferences
  • criminal or delinquent behaviour
  • substance abuse (see addiction treatment)
  • intellectual handicap.

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