Carers in the Mental Health Unit
When someone you care about is admitted to a Mental Health Hospital Unit it can be very confusing and stressful.
This page provides information for close friends, family members, kinship groups and carers of a person with a mental illness. It summarises what to expect when a person is admitted to a mental health unit in NSW, what your rights are and how you can access support.Download PDF Trifold Brochure
Mental Health Units
Both public and private hospitals admit patients for mental health care. Both public and private hospitals are subject to the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW). Voluntary patients can be admitted to both public and private hospitals. Only declared mental health facilities (usually in public hospitals) can admit people who are involuntary patients.
A person can be admitted as a voluntary patient if an authorised medical ofﬁcer believes they will beneﬁt from treatment and they, or their guardian, give consent to be treated in a mental health unit(2).
Patients can be ‘reclassiﬁed’ from involuntary to voluntary by an authorised medical ofﬁcer or the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Voluntary patients (or their guardian) in public hospitals are asked to sign a voluntary admission form.
Voluntary patients have the right to leave hospital any time they want. However, after requesting discharge, they can be detained for 2 hours to allow the authorised medical ofﬁcer to determine if they should be reclassiﬁed as an involuntary patient(3).
If a person has been a voluntary patient for 12 months, they must be reviewed by the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
An “assessable person” and “involuntary patient” are detained in the mental health unit for treatment under the Mental Health Act(4). They can’t leave even if they want to.
A person is classiﬁed as an assessable person after they have been assessed as “mentally ill” or “mentally disordered” by an authorised medical ofﬁcer or accredited person. In making that determination the medical ofﬁcer must decide there are no other safe, less restrictive options for treatment. A second medical ofﬁcer (and third if necessary) must assess a person and agree that they should be admitted and detained as an involuntary patient.
As the carer of a person being assessed you have the right to be informed. You also have the right to provide information you have to the health team completing the assessment.
For information on ‘Carer Rights’, visit our website here.
All people receiving treatment for a mental illness or disorder have a number of rights and these are listed in the Mental Health Act(5). This includes the right to receive care and treatment in the least restrictive environment enabling care to be effectively given.
All decisions to detain a person assessed as mentally ill must be reviewed by the Mental Health Review Tribunal. This will usually happen within 2-3 weeks.
For information on ‘Mental Health Review Tribunal’, visit our website here.
Try the following if you don’t agree that the person should be an involuntary patient:
- Speak with staff about your options and ﬁnd out their views on the risks to your safety and to the person’s safety. The admitting doctor should tell you why they believe the person should be an involuntary patient.
- If you are a designated carer or principal care provider, you can request (in writing) to have the person discharged. You must agree to take proper care of the person. The medical ofﬁcer must be satisﬁed that the person will be safe and won’t harm themselves or others.
- If the medical ofﬁcer decides not to discharge the person, OR if they don’t respond to you within three working days, you can appeal to the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Use the QR code in this brochure to access the ‘The Mental Health Review Tribunal’ brochure.
If you are a designated carer or principal care provider staff must consult with you (unless it is not possible to do so) about:
- Plans for discharge.
- The person’s living arrangements.
- Follow up care after discharge.
- Referrals to other services and supports.
You must be notiﬁed when the person is discharged and informed about any follow-up care that will be provided.
Concerns and Complaints
You may like to raise any concerns you have ﬁrstly with the treating team.
If unresolved you can ask Ofﬁcial Visitors to visit the person in a hospital and to advocate for them and you.
You can make a complaint to the Patient Liaison Ofﬁcer allocated to the hospital or Local Health District. You can ﬁnd contact details on the website of the hospital or Local Health District.
The Health Care Complaints Commission will also investigate your complaint about health care providers.
Where You Can Find More Information And Support
(1) The word “patient” is used in the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)
(2) Section 5, 6 and 7 of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)
(3) Section 10(3) of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)
(4) Section 9(1) of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)
(5) Section 68 of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)