Mental Health Legal Centre Inc.
Advance Statements for Mental Health
Mental health consumers have pushed for formal recognition of advance care directives for many years. In 2014 Victoria became the first state to legally recognise advance statements. Other states have followed and there is now some form of legal recognition of advance care planning for mental health consumers in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.
The Mental Health Legal Centre (MHLC) maintains a strong position that each consumer knows best about the lived experience of their ‘illness’ and that decisions made by others on their behalf will never adequately substitute for the decisions people make for themselves about their own lives. Self-determination is crucial to anybody’s ongoing wellbeing.
Advanced statements help you to have a greater say in how you are treated when you are receiving compulsory treatment. Advance statements can include information about what treatments you have found to be effective in the past and those that have been less effective or had unwelcome side effects. You can also include your views on receiving electro convulsive treatment.
An advance statement can be made at any time and must meet some basic formal requirements. It needs to be in writing, signed and dated by the person making the statement and witnessed by an authorised witness. The authorised witness must confirm that the person making it understands what an advance statement is and the consequences of making one.
Advance statements are recognised under Victoria’s mental health legislation (Mental Health Act 2014) and must be considered by your treating team when they are making decisions about your treatment and also by the Mental Health Tribunal when deciding whether to make an order for compulsory treatment.
Sometimes your treating team will not follow your advance statement if they do not offer the treatment requested or do not think it will work. If this happens you can ask them for written reasons. These reasons must be given within 10 days.
While it is only treatment preferences that must be considered under the Mental Health Act, consumers often also record other personal information that they want their treating team to know. You might include things like information about your family and home life, needing access to art supplies or music while in hospital or what will happen to your pet.
We can help
A lawyer from the Mental Health Legal Centre can help you to make an advance statement. We will work with you to understand what treatment you want and to ensure that this is expressed clearly in your advance statement.
Please contact us on (03) 9629 4422 to make an appointment with our Advance Statements team.