Mental Health Rights Manual: explained and explored
Posted on: 2nd September 2021
To help better understand the context of the Mental Health Rights Manual and how to use this valuable resource, our Principal Policy Advisor and the Manual’s key author Corinne Henderson shares her thoughts in this Q&A.
What is the MHRM and who is it useful for?
The MHRM is for anyone wanting to navigate what is often an overwhelmingly complex service system involving mental health and human services in NSW. Whether you are a person with lived experience, a carer, support person or practitioner, this useful resource can assist you to find out about your rights, the services available across the service system and how you might advocate for yourself or others.
What information is covered in the Manual?
The subjects covered include, for example – how you might be affected by mental health legislation; where you could raise concerns about the services you have received or were unable to access; what assistance you might be eligible for under the NDIS and other programs such as housing and employment, benefits and general health and disability supports.
The MHRM is a “living resource” that celebrates over twenty-five years of providing a guide to the legal and human rights of people navigating the mental health and human services systems in NSW. This edition builds on earlier online versions made available in 2010 and 2015. However, the original concept of the manual dates back to 1995 when a printed resource was launched in partnership with the Redfern Legal Service.
What was the original motivation for producing the Manual?
MHCC saw a need for consumers and their supporters to have access to broad based information covering a diversity of issues about mental health, related services and the law in one place. The Manual has grown in size – but remains an easy-to-read resource that provides the most recently available information and where to go for further assistance in one place.
Have people’s mental health rights improved over the years?
Yes, they have. Concepts of ‘human rights,’ ‘rights’ more generally, and legal and service user rights specifically, play an important role in mental health policy and service delivery in Australia. Australia is a signatory to the UNCRPD, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is the most important human rights document that exists internationally. Some human rights are found in the NSW and Australian laws now operate, both in statute law (Acts and regulations) and common law. A ‘right to privacy’ is an example of this sort of human right. The Mental Health Act in NSW has a very strong rights focus when it states the principle that people should receive the care and treatment they require in the ‘least restrictive environment consistent with their safe and effective care’. Mental health facilities in NSW are required to provide care and treatment in accordance with this principle.
How important is it to have a plain English guide to help people understand their rights?
People can experience considerable distress when they interact with the mental health service system for many reasons; but frequently because they are being involuntarily treated or they can’t access the services they feel they need, when and where they need them. They may feel they aren’t being heard or that their perspectives are dismissed. The MHRM sets out to be a readily accessible resource that explains complicated matters in plain English, without medical jargon or legalise.
How might practitioners and carers use the Manual?
It is a useful resource for practitioners to recommend to those they support when they find it hard to explain simply what a person might need to do to get their needs met. This Manual is a useful resource for carers as well, not only to assist them support others, but to know about their rights and where they can get support too.
How should people utilise the MHRM in practice?
Consumers and their support persons can consult the Manual to try to work out what to do in the many and often stressful situations they encounter. The Manual includes information about contact and referral points across a wide range of related areas. This enables readers to obtain information and assistance quickly. The Manual’s easy to navigate online format enables readers to quickly search for a topic and information they are looking for, either by using the search facility or by going to Chapter 1 Section B: How to use this Manual. This section provides a brief outline of what each section of the Manual covers and explains how to use it to find what you are looking for quickly and easily. The Manual has an index divided into a Menu which includes introductory background and publishing information, followed by 12 Chapters and appendices. The chapter headings and chapter summaries set out to help you to quickly work out which chapter of the Manual is likely to have the information you are looking for. You can then click on the link to that chapter, and you will be taken directly to it.