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Are consumers on community treatment orders informed of their legal and human rights? A West Australian study


  • Tim Rolfe, BA, M Lett, RMHN, SRN, CQSW.

  • Bernadette Sheehan, RN.

  • Rowan Davidson, MBBS, FRANZCP, MHSci.

  • Author contributions: Tim Rolfe, 60%; Bernadette Sheehan, 30%; Rowan Davidson, 10%.

Tim Rolfe, Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, Department of Health, 189 Royal Street, East Perth, WA 6004, Australia. Email:


ABSTRACT:  The human and legal rights under the Western Australian Mental Health Act (1996) of involuntary patients on community treatment orders (CTOs) include being provided with information by clinicians about the treatment expectations of the order, the procedure for review of status by the Mental Health Review Board, access to the Council of Official Visitors, and the opportunity for a second opinion about their psychiatric condition. To date, there has been no specific research in this area. This paper presents the findings of a study conducted in Western Australia where consumers on CTOs were asked to provide feedback as to whether they were informed of these legal rights. A questionnaire was distributed which asked eight questions related to being informed of these rights. The results indicated that from the consumer's perspective, the process of providing them with information about their rights was only partially met. Most consumers were informed about first appointments, their right to a review by the Mental Health Review Board, and provided with the appropriate legal form. However, in relation to what it means to be on a CTO, access to the Council of Official Visitors and the right to a second opinion, information was not being provided to the majority of consumers. The findings suggest that mental health clinicians need to make significant improvements in providing information to consumers. This level of consumer engagement could have beneficial results for the development of therapeutic relationships which in turn may lead to improved compliance with the CTO and better health outcomes for the consumer.