In Australia, every citizen or resident has the same legal rights, for example, the right to a fair trial and equality before the law. This also applies to rights of people with mental health conditions. This means that no matter your background, regardless of your gender, culture, ethnicity or religious beliefs, you have the same rights as any other person in Australia to receive mental health care and services.
Mental health law applies equally to everyone in NSW. However, the reality is that although the law itself should be applied equally, disadvantage or cultural differences, often leads to the application of mental health law which produces different outcomes for members of different groups in society. One example is that people who live in more remote parts of the state have poorer access to services on the ground and that people with better financial resources can often access private mental health care unavailable to others.
People from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially living with mental health conditions, may experience difficulties accessing mental health services that should be available to them. This may be because of access to transport; lack of money; lack of awareness of what services are available; limited reading and writing skills; limited English language skills; physical health and mobility issues; or an absence of easily understood information for people with developmental / intellectual or Cognitive impairment is defined by the Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensic Provisions Act 2020 (NSW) as an ongoing impairment in adaptive functioning and in comprehension, reasoning, judgement, learning or memory, which has resulted from damage or dysfunction to the brain or mind. Cognitive impairment may arise from intellectual disability, dementia, autism or foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.. Difficulties may also arise because of stereotyping and/or prejudice against members of particular groups of people as well stigma and discrimination about people who experience mental health conditions generally. There is also an inequity of services across NSW, particularly in rural and remote areas.
These potential differences in outcomes have to some extent been recognised by governments and mental health service providers. This recognition has led to policy changes and, in some cases, changes to the law. The most obvious of these changes is the anti-discrimination law that prohibits discrimination when providing services (including mental health services).
This section of the Manual looks at the difficulties faced by members of particular groups in both accessing and engaging with mental health services in NSW and suggests possible solutions, rights and access to services that may help prevent members of these groups from having negative experiences. You can read more about issues that are particularly relevant to people living with mental health conditions who:
Updated July 24, 2020