Introduction to Mental Health Law

Contributed by Dr Stephen Tang, Lecturer, ANU College of Law and current to April 2018.

This chapter provides an overview of mental health law in the ACT. Much of the law about mental health revolves around the Mental Health Act 2015 (the Act). Since the Act is a long, complex and highly cross-referenced piece of legislation, this chapter steps through the key actions and decisions that can be made under the Act and how these are practically implemented by ACT Health. Admittedly, this can be a little repetitive and laborious at times, but much depends on the fine details.

Most of what the Act has to say about mental health is in relation to the assessment, treatment, care and support of someone who does not want this to occur, or who is legally considered to be less than fully able to participate in these decisions. This chapter will therefore focus on these issues of involuntary mental health care in the ACT as provided by ACT Health, although voluntary treatment is also discussed.

This chapter addresses the following areas: There is much more that could be said. A future update to this chapter will cover other aspects of the Act, including:
  • Assessment Orders;
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Psychiatric Surgery;
  • Forensic and Secure Mental Health:
    ○ Forensic Mental Health Orders;
    ○ Forensic Patients (People charged with a criminal offence but found by a court to be not guilty by reason of mental impairment, or people found unfit to plead);
    ○ Referrals for mental health assessments from the Magistrates Court;
    ○ The Mental Health (Secure Facilities) Act 2016;
  • Interstate transfers;
  • Review, oversight and complaint mechanisms.

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