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Exercising Your Healthcare Rights


Healthcare rights are there to ensure that the person receiving treatment (consumers/patients) and carers receive safe, high-quality care from their treating healthcare providers. The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights state these rights apply to all healthcare services/facilities anywhere in Australia.

Below are a few tips to help you exercise your healthcare rights.

Educate Yourself

Educating oneself about mental health care rights, laws, and regulations can be empowering however it can be tricky, as the information is often complex and difficult to understand. See the suggestions below on services  that can assist:

  • Mental Health Advocacy Services
  • Official Visitors Programs
  • Community Visitors Programs
  • Office of the Public Advocate
  • Peer Support Workers
  • Mental Health Review Tribunals

For information on advocacy support, visit the “Get Help” page.

Support to understand a person’s rights

Help with language barriers

If English is not your first language the services of an interpreter could provide you with assistance for healthcare appointments, the translation of documents, informing you of your rights etc. at no cost to yourself as the service is claimed via Medicare.

It is also important to mention that cultural differences can sometimes lead to information being left out or misunderstood when it is translated.

Learn more about interpreter support at TIS National.

How to have more control over mental health treatment

In Australia, as a person experiencing a mental health condition has the right to be included in decisions about their treatment and care and can refuse and request changes to their treatment plan. The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights states that a person should be informed of their treatment options to enable them to choose the services and supports they will receive.

Explore the available mental health care treatment options and understand the different approaches and therapies. This knowledge will empower you to make informed decisions about your care.

Remember, research does not all need to be done online. Speak to others about what medications or treatments worked for them. You can also ask your GP or local pharmacist for fact sheets or additional information on specific medications as part of your research.

It can be useful to make a note of the treatments you’ve tried, including what you liked and didn’t like about them. This way, if your healthcare provider suggests a treatment again in the future, you’ll have your own record to refer to and talk about with them.

You have the right to ask questions of your treating Doctor or health care provider about your mental health treatment plan and to request changes and/ or a review if you are not happy with your current treatment. It can be scary to speak up to Doctors and the treating team, however the care you are receiving needs to be right for you and if you feel there needs to be changes to your medication/ and or the person who is supporting you, it is important to voice these. You may wish to ask to change your medication or the person who is supporting or treating them. It might be scary to speak up, but it’s important to tell the professional how they feel.

It could be helpful when attending appointments or meetings with the Doctor or treating team to take someone with you such as a family member, a support person, a peer worker, or an advocate and be prepared by having a list of the topics you wish to discuss.

  • what’s going well,
  • what isn’t going well including side effects.
  • what do you want to change? Express any concerns honestly.
  • why you want to make those changes.
  • names of any treatments or medications you want to learn more about.
  • what are the side effects?
  • how long has the treatment been available and whether any research on long term use has been conducted.

If you have doubts about your diagnosis, treatment plan, or the care you are receiving, consider seeking a second opinion from another qualified mental health professional.

Alternatively, both a person receiving treatment and their family or support person have right to make a complaint. The complaints process will differ slightly based on your State or Territory.

Click here to learn more.

Advocate for Yourself

If you believe your mental health care rights are not being respected or you’re not getting the care you need, it’s important to speak up for yourself.

You can contact an advocacy support service, seek legal aid, or connect with a support group. These resources can provide guidance, advice, and assistance in advocating for your rights and ensuring you receive appropriate care. Remember, you have the right to advocate for yourself and receive the support you deserve.

Next Steps

If you find yourself uncertain about what to do next or in need of more information and support, try reaching out to your local advocacy support service.

Find an advocacy support service
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