Assistance at hand for mental health

Chris Povey

Chris Povey

Compulsory treatment should be a last resort.

Chris Povey

NEW legal help will soon be available for people who have mental health problems in central Victoria.

People with a mental health diagnosis who are required to have compulsory treatment will now be able to access legal advice through Victoria Legal Aid. 

Victoria Legal Aid mental health and disability advocacy program manager Chris Povey said it would be a beneficial service for the people with a diagnosis.

He said there were not many services available in the area.

"There are about 900 hearings in the Bendigo area per year but only a handful are properly assisted," he said.

He said a lot of people were not fully understanding why they were being required to stay in hospital.

"This service will talk about what the individual wants. They will have their wishes and interests heard," he said.

"Most people with a mental illness are treated voluntarily.

"In some cases, the law enables psychiatrists to treat them compulsorily - even when the person doesn't feel it is necessary.

"Compulsory treatment should be a last resort. 

"People in this situation have the right to have their treatment reviewed."

A new Mental Health Tribunal will meet in Bendigo weekly to review the compulsory psychiatric treatment of involuntary patients.

The tribunal will replace the Mental Health Review Board.

It would determine whether a person should be placed on a compulsory treatment order and if they need to be detained in hospital to receive treatment.

A specialist mental health lawyer, Renee Wilson will assist people in Bendigo, Swan Hill, Echuca, Maryborough, Castlemaine and Kyneton.

Mr Povey said it was a serious step to detain or treat people against their will and that Ms Wilson would play a crucial role in protecting the rights of those people.

"Issues faced by those suffering poor mental health can range from deteriorating relationships, demands for payments of fines and unpaid bills to a need for representation at a review of treatment," Ms Wilson said.

"We're really pleased to be able to improve our services in the region by offering this specialist support."