Compulsory Mental Health Treatment: Know Your Rights, Have Your Say

In Victoria, 10,000 people a year are placed on compulsory mental health treatment orders.  For many, this can feel like their self-determination is lost and their voice is not heard.   In August 2015, Independent Mental Health Advocacy, (IMHA) was established to provide a free independent advocacy and information service to people receiving compulsory mental health treatment in Victoria.

IMHA was designed to assist people to retain a degree of choice and control over their care and is an integral component towards realising the reforms and supported decision making principles underpinning the Mental Health Act (2014).


Our team has expanded to include a ‘Speaking from Experience’ Consumer Group, Senior Consumer Consultant, 15 advocates and a Manager across four sites, (Melbourne, B

Danni Flink, IMHA

endigo, Geelong and Dandenong).  IMHA also regularly visits 34 hospitals across the state to talk directly to consumers.

Of the people who access our service:

  • 65% of participants self-refer
  • 7% are born overseas
  • 2% are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
  • 75% are based in major cities, with 20.9% in regional areas

The main issues identified by people requesting advocacy include: greater participation in decisions, treatment preferences and medication changes.   These themes are evident in an example of our work:

Jane's story

During a nine week, compulsory admission to hospital, ‘Jane’, (not her real name) had her medication increased to a level that she felt was too high.  Following discharge from hospital, Jane asked an IMHA advocate to attend treatment meetings with her psychiatrist to help her advocate for a change in medication.

Prior to treatment meetings the consumer prepared notes about side effects she was experiencing.  With the support of the IMHA advocate, the consumer advocated for her treatment preferences and the doctor agreed to lower the dose of medication by 25% to ease side effects.

‘…without IMHA I wouldn’t have been able to cross that bridge and would have lost the courage and confidence to express my views.'

This article was kindly provided by Danni Flink (Independent Mental Health Advocate).

Join us in Albury, NSW from Wednesday 11 – Friday 13 October 2017 for the 9thAustralian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium.

The 2017 Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium will include keynote speakers, concurrent sessions and workshops that develop skills related specifically to the mental health needs of our rural and remote communities, and ways to effectively prepare mental health and other rural human service professionals to meet future challenges.

Secure your spot here.

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