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Human rights and involuntary treatment

18 Dec 2019

Following the commencement of the Mental Health Act 2016 in Queensland, the Commission engaged researchers to examine the processes provided in the new Act to protect the human rights for people being treated involuntarily for a mental illness.

Users of mental health services, people with mental health conditions and people with psychosocial disabilities are particularly vulnerable to breaches of their human rights through seclusion and restraint.

The research shows that significant positive changes towards strengthening human rights protections introduced by the Mental Health Act 2016 have included introducing Independent Patient Rights Advisers and Advance Health Directives, and treating people in a less restrictive way.

These changes ensure the Mental Health Act 2016 aligns more closely with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities than the previous Mental Health Act 2000.

The changes put Queensland in a strong position compared with other Australian states and territories.

The findings also identified aspects where the protection of human rights could be improved, including:

  • cultural change with a stronger focus on patients’ rights and opportunities to make treatment choices
  • training for hospital and health services staff, clinicians and non-government mental health service providers to support the work of Independent Patient Rights Advisers and less restrictive ways
  • improved communication with consumers to support recovery
  • changes to current risk assessment practices, and
  • promoting the uptake of Advance Health Directives and improving processes to register and update them.

Some of these areas for improvement have also been identified in the evaluation of the implementation of the Mental Health Act 2016 undertaken by Queensland Health.

Read the research report Human rights protection frameworks for people being treated involuntarily for a mental illness.

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