National mental health policy 2008

2.1 The rights and responsibilities of people with mental health problems and mental illness

Page last updated: 2009

The rights and responsibilities of people with mental health problems and mental illness will be acknowledged and respected. Services must be provided in accordance with agreed national and international obligations.
All Australians, including those with mental health problems and mental illness, have a right to participate meaningfully in individual and community life without discrimination, stigma or exclusion. All Australians should be able to access contemporary and relevant literature, information and advocacy services to ensure that they understand and are free to exercise these rights and responsibilities without prejudice.

People with mental health problems and mental illness should be able to access a necessary range of mental and general health services, disability services, and services offering vocational rehabilitation, housing and supported accommodation, and respite care. They should be able to expect that workers with whom they come into contact will uphold their rights and deliver fair and proper standards of care and service provision. In turn, they have a responsibility to work together with these services towards their recovery and to respect the rights, well-being and safety of other people working in or using these services.

People with mental health problems and mental illness have rights and responsibilities to be informed about and involved in decisions about their own individual treatment. They also have the right to contribute to the formulation of mental health legislation and policy, and to the design, implementation and evaluation of mental health services at national, state/territory and local levels to ensure that services comprehensively meet their needs, including from a cultural perspective. Mental health legislation should include recognition of these rights and the conditions that apply when decision-making is delegated. Mental health legislation should be underpinned by consistent principles that support, wherever possible, people moving between jurisdictions.

People with mental health problems and mental illness are vulnerable to human rights' violations in the community and in a variety of services due to stigma, discrimination and the absence of legal protection. Media reporting and public education should seek to lessen rather than add to stigma. Peoples’ rights to meaningful community participation and to consent to or refuse treatment should be protected and dignity, privacy and respect safeguarded. Individual rights should be balanced against the rights of carers, families and the wider community.

Every attempt should be made to provide services in a way that is culturally safe. The special rights of Indigenous Australians must be respected and there should be no tolerance of discrimination or racism in service environments.