MHCC Mental Health Rights Manual

Change font size: SmallerReset textLarger

Chapter 9 Section A: Carers of people with mental health conditions - Overview

In this Manual, the word ‘carer’ is used to describe a person who has responsibility for major aspects of the care of a family member or friend with a mental health condition.

This is not to be confused with paid professional carers such as health care professionals or health care workers who provide treatment and/or care and support to a person in a hospital, age- or disability-care facility, out-patient facility or in the person’s own home.

Sometimes carers are called ‘persons responsible’ but often responsibility for a person is shared between family members and friends. Sometimes, but not always, this happens through a formal discussion about the division of tasks and responsibilities. In some cases a person may be a full-time carer for a person with a mental health condition and share the same residence. In other instances, a person may have little or no day-to-day, face-to-face contact with the person, but, either through prior legal or informal arrangement, or simply through circumstances, be the principal decision-maker for a person who lacks the physical and/or mental capacity to make certain decisions for themselves. Sometimes, this Manual refers to a carer who might also be a concerned parent of an adult who is living independently and finds himself or herself interacting with the mental health system.

This chapter of the Manual provides information to anyone who cares for another person who is involved with the mental health system because of their mental health condition. It has information about the rights and responsibilities of carers, as well as providing information for carers to help them advocate on behalf of those friends or family members they care for in their interactions with the mental health and legal systems. 

It is important to note that, putting questions of capacity aside, at times a person and their carer may have very similar views about the care and treatment that the person should receive from the mental health system. Sometimes a person wants to be admitted to hospital and their carer supports them in this but a hospital refuses to admit them.

Sometimes, however, the view of a person with a mental health condition is completely different from that of their carer. A carer might think that their family member or friend should not be in hospital, even though that person is a voluntary patient. Alternatively, a carer might think their family member or friend should be admitted as an involuntary patient, but that person strongly disagrees to hospitalisation or rejects a diagnosis of mental illness.

This chapter deals with the rights and responsibilities of different people and authorities that a carer might need to know about in all these possible situations.

The amendments to the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) were assented to on the 28 November 2014 by way of the Mental Health Amendment (Statutory Review) Act 2014 (NSW). These changes are now in force.The Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) provides for people with mental illness to nominate a 'Designated Carer'. A Designated Carer has a right of access to certain otherwise confidential information about the patient under that Act. The Act also provides Designated Carers with a role in the development of treatment and discharge plans. This is only one aspect of the potential interaction between carers and the family member or friend with mental illness for whom they care.

The Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) now also introduces a new category of persons called “Principal Care Provider” who are persons entitled to be informed of a range of matters about the person for whom they provide care, including about their admission, aspects of treatment and discharge.

A designated carer can also be a person who is a close relative or friend who has frequent contact and interest in the care of a person with a mental health condition. The 'relative' of a person who is an Aboriginal or Torres Islander includes a person who is part of the extended family or kin of a person according to the indigenous kinship system of the person's culture.

It is important to remember that all carers, people with mental illness and health care providers have legal rights and responsibilities, both under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) and under the general law.

You will find information in this chapter of the Manual about how you can support your friend or family member by gaining a better understanding of the following issues:

This part of the Manual also provides:

The amendments to the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) were assented to on the 28 November 2014 by way of the Mental Health Amendment (Statutory Review) Act 2014 (NSW). These changes are now in force. The Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), has replaced the term “Primary Carer” with that of “Designated Carer.” It also introduces a new category of persons called “Principle Care Providers” who are persons primarily responsible for providing care and support to a person with mental illness. Principle Care Providers have a similar right to information about the treatment of the person for whom they care to Designated Carers.

A designated carer can also be a person who is a close relative or friend who has frequent contact and interest in the care of a person with a mental health condition. The 'relative' of a person who is an Aboriginal or Torres Islander includes a person who is part of the extended family or kin of a person according to the indigenous kinship system of the person's culture.

 DISCLAIMER

  • The legal and other information contained in this Section is up to date to 31 August 2015
  • This Manual only refers to the law and practices applying to the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) - unless it states otherwise.
  • MHCC does not guarantee the accuracy nor is responsible for the content or the currency of the content of external documents and websites linked to this Manual.