Carers of people with mental illness also have rights. There are a broad range of Acts and statements that protect and define these rights.
The Mental Health Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (1991), is based on UN principles. It provides a government commitment to protect the rights of people receiving mental health treatment and their carers. All States and Territories are signatories to this document.
In the Northern Territory, the Mental Health and Related Services Act governs the delivery of mental health services. Carers have rights that are outlined clearly in this Act. In addition the Northern Territory Carers Recognition Act also specifically recognises carers of people with mental illness.
Section 7A of the Mental Health and Related Services Act defines a primary carer as:
a) someone providing care and support to the person because of his or her sense of responsibility as a relative of, or someone close to, the person; or
b) if the person does not have anyone providing care and support as mentioned in paragraph (a) – someone most closely involved in the treatment or care of, or support to, the person.
The Carers Guide to the Mental Health and Related Services Act (pp 7 – 8) states that primary carers may expect to be:
- Notified of an involuntary order;
- Given information about how to make an application to, or give evidence to the Tribunal;
- Given information about rights under the Act;
- Notified of a Tribunal decision following a review;
- Provided with information about medication;
- Included in discussions regarding treatment options;
- Provided with information about discharge planning;
- Given information on how to make a complaint; and
- Given information on how to contact the Community Visitor.
What happens if the person receiving treatment does not want the carer to be contacted?
Sometimes, the person receiving treatment may refuse permission for the mental health service to contact the primary carer. If they believe that it is not in the best interests of the person receiving treatment, the treating team may decide not to contact the primary carer or provide information, however they must notify the Mental Health Review Tribunal of any such decision in writing.
The mental health service must then notify the primary carer of their decision and of the carer’s right to apply to the Mental Health Review Tribunal to review this decision. (This does not apply to a decision not to notify the primary carer of an involuntary detention order).
More information is available by contacting the Community Visitor Program.