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Chapter 1 Section A: About this Manual: what the Manual seeks to do and what it is not

The Mental Health Rights Manual (the Manual) is a resource designed primarily to assist people with mental health conditions, as well as their carers and families (associates) involved in the NSW mental health system. It  aims to describe how to best understand and navigate the mental health service system in NSW. It also deals with the relationship between the mental health and other related service systems and legislation. MHCC propose that the Manual is also useful to the mental health workforce, as well as consumer and lay advocates who support consumers and their associates in their interactions with mental health and other human services.

The Manual explains the key international, national and state policy and organisational frameworks that regulate or influence mental health care in NSW, and it provides a guide to the key areas of law that impact upon mental health consumers, their families and carers in NSW.

We understand that one of the key reasons why consumers and their associates will consult the Manual is to try to work out what to do in a stressful situation. The Manual therefore also includes information about contact and referral points across a wide range of relevant areas that will enable readers to obtain further information and assistance quickly.

The Manual is written in plain English, as free as possible from legal and medical jargon to assist its accessibility to readers from a wide range of backgrounds. It is written in an on-line publication format that will enable readers to quickly navigate to a topic and download the text that provides the information they are looking for.

The Manual is not designed as a guide for lawyers in this area. Many, although not all, of the areas covered by this Manual are also covered by legal texts, legal practice guides, resources produced by government and the relevant tribunals, all aimed at lawyers, using language that is familiar to those who have formal legal qualifications. Perhaps, from time to time, lawyers will find the information in the Manual useful. However, lawyers are not the audience for which this Manual has been written. Similarly, while mental health professionals will find many aspects of this Manual useful, the Manual is not written for clinicians in the sense that it does not contain clinical information.

Nevertheless, we do urge lawyers and clinicians who work in the mental health sector to become familiar with the Manual so that they are able to recommend it to mental health consumers and their associates when they require information about their rights in regards to the mental health system or other information and guidance in a particular area. The Manual will also assist lawyers and clinicians to explain issues to mental health consumers and their associates in plain-English with a minimum of legal and clinical jargon.

Updated January 30, 2015