Legal help and advocacy > Legal advice and representation
Mental health – involuntary treatment
Mental Health Legal Service
Our Mental Health Legal Service (MHLS) is a specialist legal service dedicated to providing free and independent information, advice, referrals and representation in relation to involuntary treatment under mental health law in Queensland. The MHLS was established in 2010 with funding from Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General and the Commonwealth Attorney-General.
In March 2017, the new Mental Health Act 2016 (Qld) commenced, bringing significant changes to the law, in particular, the role of lawyers in the Mental Health Review Tribunal. With legal representation mandatory for certain matters under the new Act, QAI was able to increase its capacity for the first time in 7 years with funding coordinated by Legal Aid Queensland.
Assistance is free, confidential and independent of Queensland Health or the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
From time to time, the MHLS also works on law reform issues and provides continuing legal education services to the legal profession and the community.
What does the MHLS do?
The focus of the service is to provide advice and representation to people who have matters before the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Due to limited resources, we may not be able to provide assistance to people who do not have matters or potential matters before the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
A matter before the Mental Health Tribunal includes:
- Review of an involuntary treatment order
- Review of a forensic order
- An application for electroconvulsive therapy
- An application to have an involuntary patient move out of Queensland.
The extent of assistance that will be provided by the MHLS is at the discretion of the service, having regard to all relevant circumstances such as the needs of the client, the merits of the case and the resources of the service.
For example, the service may:
- Provide one-off legal advice on a client’s rights and obligations under the Mental Health Act 2000 (Qld)
- Assist a client in preparing submissions for use by the client in the conduct of his or her own matter
- Prepare a brief so that the matter may be referred for further legal advice, support or representation
- Appear before the Mental Health Review Tribunal on behalf of a client.
We do not provide representation before the Mental Health Court. If you require assistance for a Mental Health Court matter, please contact Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88.
If the MHLS cannot assist an individual, we will try to refer the person to another organisation that may be able to assist.
Who does the MHLS assist?
The MHLS can only assist people who are subject to involuntary treatment, or have possible matters arising, under the Mental Health Act. The MHLS is respectful of and encourages the assistance of family, friends, and other support people. However, unless exceptional circumstances exist, only a current or potential involuntary patient of mental health services can be a client of the MHLS.
Priority for assistance is given to people who are in-patients.
The MHLS is a Brisbane-based service, unless effective assistance can be provided by telephone.
“Carly Dennis would have to be one of THE MOST kind hearted beautiful souled people I’ve ever [had] the pleasure of meeting. The help & assistance I received from that woman has most definitely changed my life for the better. I couldn’t thank her enough I had been treated so damn inhumane until she stepped in & removed the unfair torment I was receiving.”
Jodie Gough, MHLS Client
“I was grateful for the legal assistance I received.
QAI have been supportive, and it is good to have legal representation.”
William McIntosh, MHLS client
How do I get help?
Please contact our office on 07 3844 4200 or use the contact form below to enquire about making an appointment to speak with a mental health solicitor.
You can help us by knowing when your next Tribunal hearing is and having a copy of your clinical report available. If you do not have this information, you can contact the Mental Health Review Tribunal on 07 3235 9059 or 1800 006 478 or speak to your case manager or other member of your treating team.
Resources on mental health law
This factsheet is about what happens if a patient runs away from a Queensland mental health service and stays within Queensland. People who run away interstate will be subject to the corresponding laws of that state, which may or may not allow for their apprehension and return to Queensland.
This factsheet is to provide guidance for people who will be advocating for themselves at their Mental Health Review Tribunal hearing. It also outlines tips for treatment review meetings and other meetings with your treating team, and where to get more information, advice and/or representation.
A plain English brochure about involuntary treatment for mental illness in Queensland under the Mental Health Act 2016 (Qld) Treatment Authority brochure (pdf) Last updated 20/6/19
This factsheet is about what your rights, responsibilities and options are regarding legal representation for your Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) hearing.
Mental Health Act Statement of Rights – Queensland Health statement
Patient Rights under the Mental Health Act 2016 – 10min video produced by West Moreton IPRAs on patient rights
Self help guide to representing yourself on a treatment authority review – LawRight Factsheet
Clare* had her Treatment Authority revoked after assistance from one of Queenland Advocacy’s mental health solicitors.
The MHLS assisted a client, Clare* who was subject to a Treatment Authority (TA) in the community. Clare had a history of contact with Mental Health services since 2014 and was more recently placed on the TA in 2019 after a lengthy admission in hospital. Clare contacted Queensland Advocacy for assistance in early 2020 and Queensland Advocacy provided legal advice and subsequent representation to Clare in relation to her matter. In July 2020, Queensland Advocacy further assisted Clare in relation to her Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) Hearing.
Clare wanted to pursue treatment as a voluntary patient privately in the community rather than under an involuntary order. Clare did not agree with her mental health diagnosis made by her treating doctor and found the assertive follow up restrictive and invasive.
Queensland Advocacy assisted Clare and represented her views, wishes and preferences at her MHRT hearing. Evidence before the MHRT demonstrated that Clare was currently stable and compliant with all aspects of her treatment including attending appointments and taking prescribed medications. Clare was also functioning well in the community including attending to the responsibility of caring for her elderly mother. Submissions were made on Clare’s behalf addressing the criteria for treatment under the Mental Health Act 2016 (Qld) which supported that Clare had capacity to consent to treatment and that there was no evidence of imminent serious harm to herself or others if she were not subject to involuntary treatment.
The MHRT made the decision to revoke Clare’s TA. Clare is now a voluntary patient and free to engage which services of her choice for her treatment and care.
*Name has been changed.
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