Mental health cases

ACAT can make a range of orders about a person’s mental health treatment, care or support under the Mental Health Act 2015.

Referrals

ACAT can receive a referral from the ACT Supreme Court or the ACT Magistrates Court to determine whether a person has a mental impairment as defined in the Criminal Code 2002, or for the purpose of making a mental health order.

Emergency detention

There are circumstances where a person may be detained without a full mental health assessment. The Mental Health Act 2015 describes this as emergency detention, and it includes apprehension, assessment and treatment. Emergency detention is authorised by a doctor at a mental health facility for no longer than three days.

During the three day period of detention, the Chief Psychiatrist (or their delegate) may apply to ACAT for an extension of the period of detention for a maximum of a further 11 days.

A person can apply for a review of emergency detention, in which case ACAT must conduct a review within two working days.

Making an application for an assessment order

Assessment orders are used to assess whether a person has a mental illness or mental disorder and, if so, identify any treatment, care or support that might help.

Anyone can apply to ACAT for an assessment order, including:

  • the person with a mental illness or mental disorder
  • a family member
  • a carer
  • a member of the public
  • a health professional.

To apply for an assessment, you need to complete and lodge an:

The person making the application will need to tell ACAT:

  • whether they believe the person has a mental illness or mental disorder (and if so, give the reasons)
  • the reasons why they are making the application
  • information about past mental health history (if known)
  • if there is an actual or potential risk to the person’s health or safety (and if so, explain the risk)
  • if the person is causing or is likely to cause serious harm to others
  • whether the application process is likely to substantially increase the risk to health or safety or the risk of serious harm to others
  • the medical basis, if known, for the application.

When making an assessment application, be aware that:

  • a copy of the assessment application and any supporting documentation will be given to the person who is the subject of the application
  • ACAT registry staff may contact you to ask for more information.

A hearing will normally be held by ACAT to decide whether or not to make an assessment order.

If ACAT makes an assessment order and the person does not attend for the assessment, ACAT may make a removal order that the person be taken to an approved mental health facility for assessment.

Once an assessment has occurred, ACAT receives a copy of the assessment report. ACAT will consider this report and any other information provided, and may hold a hearing to decide whether to make a mental health order. Notices will be sent if a hearing is scheduled.

Making an application for mental health orders

An application for a psychiatric treatment order, community care order and/or a restriction order can only be made by the Chief Psychiatrist, or their delegate.

To apply for a mental health order, the Chief Psychiatrist (or their delegate) needs to complete and lodge an:

The Chief Psychiatrist or their delegate will need to tell ACAT:

  • why the application is being made (the events leading to the application)
  • why they think the person has a mental illness and/or a mental disorder
  • the date of the most recent assessment
  • whether the person has decision making capacity
  • whether the person refuses to receive treatment, care or support OR if the person has decision making capacity, whether they refuse to consent to treatment, care or support (if yes, what the person does to constitute refusal)
  • if the person is doing, or likely to do, serious harm to themselves or someone else because of the mental illness or mental disorder
  • if the person is suffering, or likely to suffer, serious mental or physical deterioration because of a mental illness or mental disorder
  • what treatment, care or support is proposed
  • why or how treatment care or support is likely to reduce harm, or deterioration, or result in an improvement to the person’s condition
  • why treatment care or support can’t be adequately provided with less restriction of the person’s freedom of choice and movement

ACAT can make a psychiatric treatment order or a community care order for any period up to six months. It must be reviewed before its expiry date or at any time where it is assessed as no longer necessary or on application for review.

A restriction order can be made in addition to either a psychiatric treatment order or community care order for a maximum of three months. It may place restrictions on people or places that the person is allowed to approach, or identify specific activities the person must not undertake. A restriction order may also state where the person is to live, or be detained.

Making an application for forensic mental health orders

ACAT has the power to makeforensic mental health orders, including:

  • a forensic psychiatric treatment order for a person with a mental illness
  • a forensic community care order or a person with a mental disorder.

The Chief Psychiatrist or Care Coordinator (or a relevant person) needs to complete and lodge an:

The Chief Psychiatrist or Care Coordinator (or the relevant person) will need to tell ACAT:

  • whether the person is a detainee, serving a community based sentence, released on parole, released on a licence or a young detainee or offender
  • if the person has a mental illness or mental disorder
  • the person’s mental state
  • if the person consents to treatment
  • if the person is doing (or is likely to do) serious harm to themselves or others
  • if the person is suffering (or likely to suffer) serious mental or physical deterioration if not voluntarily treated
  • if they believe the person has (or is likely to) seriously endangered public safety
  • how treatment, care or support is likely to reduce the harm, deterioration or endangerment to themselves or others or public safety or the likelihood of these things
  • why a psychiatric treatment order or community care order should not be made
  • why treatment, care or support cannot be adequately provided with less restriction of the freedom of choice and movement of the person
  • if there anything to do with the application process that is likely to increase the risk to the person’s health or safety, or the risk of serious harm to others.

An application for a forensic mental health order can be made for three months. If a person has been subjected continuously to orders for 12 months or more, ACAT may make an order for up to 12 months.

Making an application for an electroconvulsive therapy order

The Chief Psychiatrist or a doctor can apply to ACAT for an electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) order.

To make an application, the applicant must complete and lodge an:

You will need to tell ACAT:

  • if the person is already subject to a psychiatric treatment order or forensic psychiatric treatment order
  • whether the person has a mental illness, as well as the person’s current presentation and details of a mental state examination and relevant past history
  • whether the person has decision making capacity
  • if the person has an advanced consent direction refusing consent to ECT
  • if the person refuses or resists treatment
  • what benefits will ECT likely provide to the person
  • what treatment has been tried to date
  • whether ECT is the most appropriate form of treatment at this time
  • if any other treatment, care or support is reasonably available
  • if ECT is proposed for a child who is at least 12 years old, that the application is supported by a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

If you are asking for an emergency ECT order, you will also need to tell ACAT:

  • that emergency ECT is necessary to save the person’s life, and why OR
  • that emergency ECT is necessary to prevent the likely onset of a risk to the person’s life within three days, and why.

ACAT will hold a hearing to decide whether to make an ECT order.

Mental health hearings

A mental health hearing at ACAT is like a meeting. You should allow between 30 minutes and one hour for the hearing. If the case is more complex, it may take longer.

Hearings are held in a few different locations, including at:

  • ACAT
  • the Canberra Hospital (Adult Mental Health Unit)
  • Calvary Hospital (Older Person’s Mental Health Unit)

Your notice from ACAT will tell you where and when the hearing will be. If your hearing is going to be at ACAT and you need an interpreter, let us know (see also our information about accessibility).

You should attend the hearing so you can provide information and give your perspective about the application. You may have a lawyer to represent your interests, preferences or perspectives. If you cannot attend the hearing, you can ask to attend by telephone.

ACAT mental health hearings are private, which means that only a small number of people will be able to attend and know what is being discussed. There will usually be three ACAT Members, including a presidential member, psychiatric member and a community member. In some cases, there may only be two ACAT Members. You can object to people attending who are not directly involved.

At the hearing, arguments can be made both verbally and in writing about whether or not a mental health order should be made.

ACAT will decide at the hearing whether or not to make an order.

Review of mental health orders

Psychiatric treatment orders, community care orders and restriction orders can be reviewed.

A review will occur when:

  • ACAT decides to initiate a review itself
  • a person who has had an order made about them applies for review
  • a representative of a person who has had an order made about them applies for a review
  • a mental health order is in place, and the Chief Psychiatrist or the Care Coordinator (or their delegate) thinks that the order is no longer required
  • a person contravenes a restriction order under a mental health order
  • a person absconds from an approved facility or community care facility.

ACAT will send a notice that tells you when a review is scheduled.

Revocation of mental health orders

If the Chief Psychiatrist (or their delegate) is satisfied that a person is no longer a person in relation to whom a psychiatric treatment order, community care order or restriction order could be made, an application must be made to ACAT for the order to be revoked.

ACAT must consider an application for revocation within 72 hours of receiving the application.

More information

Find out about:

Glossary and terms

Glossary and terms

ACT Civil and Administrative TribunalA tribunal established under the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. It may also be referred to as ACAT or Tribunal.

Adjourn (or adjournment)To suspend or postpone a preliminary conference, mediation or hearing and reschedule it for a future date.

Administrative reviewACAT has jurisdiction to review some administrative decisions made by the ACT Government. Find out about Review of ACT Government decisions.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)Also known as dispute resolution. This is a way of resolving disputes without a formal hearing. It may involve a preliminary conference or mediation. ADR is used to help parties resolve cases by agreement.

AnorMeans ‘and another’. This term is generally used to name parties to proceedings when there is more than one applicant or respondent.

Appeal TribunalA tribunal constituted under section 81 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal 2008 to review a decision of the tribunal (not all ACAT decisions are appealable at ACAT – you may need to go to the Supreme Court).

AppellantThe individual or company that appeals an ACAT decision.

Authorising lawsA law that says an application (including referrals) may be made to ACAT. An authorising law may also set out the powers ACAT has in a case. Also see ‘jurisdiction’.

ApplicantThe individual or company that brings a case to ACAT, usually by making an application.

Calling a witnessA party or their representative will ‘call a witness’ at an ACAT hearing when they ask a witness to give evidence.

CaseAlso known as a matter, dispute, application or referral. Cases come to ACAT when ACAT has jurisdiction (power) to make a decision.

Cross-examinationThe process of asking a witness questions to test or check the evidence that the witness has given to ACAT.

Deliver a decisionAlso ‘handing down a decision’. This is giving a decision about an ACAT case. It may be done verbally or in writing (or both).

DirectionsInstructions that set out what each party must do (and when), often to prepare a case for hearing.

Directions hearingA short hearing where an ACAT Member or Registrar decides how to manage a case and what needs to be done before a hearing. Find out about directions hearings.

Ex parte orderAn order made by ACAT where one or more parties were not present.

Expert reportA written report from an expert that may be used as evidence.

Expert witnessA person with specialised knowledge based on their training, study or experience. An expert can give evidence at a hearing. Find out more about witness statements.

Final directions hearingSometimes ACAT will hold a final directions hearing prior to the final hearing of an application. The purpose is to make sure the case is ready to go to a hearing and give the parties a chance to ask questions about the hearing process.

Handed upGiving documents to an ACAT Member or Registrar in a hearing.

In chambersWhen ACAT considers something without holding a hearing.

Joined party (joined/joinder)A party who was not originally a party to the dispute but has later been added to the case.

JurisdictionACAT’s authority (power) to deal with, hear and decide applications (cases).

LeaveIf someone asks for leave, they are usually asking for permission to do something.

List (or listing)A schedule (or list) of cases to be heard at ACAT each day.

Listing noticeA letter or written document from ACAT that sets out when a conference, mediation or hearing is scheduled at ACAT.

MediationA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute, with the help of an impartial mediator (who is also an ACAT Member or Registrar). It is held under section 35 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008.

Non-publication and/or non-disclosure orderAlso called a ‘suppression order’. It is an order that requires certain information not to be published or disclosed. It is made under section 39 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. Find out about public hearings and confidentiality.

Notice to partiesA letter sent to the parties in a case that sets out the time, date and location for an ACAT conference, mediation or hearing.

Opening statementUsually means a statement made at the beginning of a hearing to outline the key points in the case. Sometimes parties are asked to give an opening statement at a mediation or preliminary conference.

Originating applicationAn application that starts an ACAT case.

Party or partiesAn individual or company directly involved in an ACAT case, for example an applicant or respondent. Find out how to identify and name parties.

Preliminary conferenceA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of an ACAT Member or Registrar. See section 33 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. ACAT has different types of preliminary conferences.

RegistryThe administrative section of ACAT that accepts documents lodged by parties, handles enquiries and provides support for case management.

RepresentativeA person who represents or advocates for an individual or company at a conference, mediation or hearing at ACAT. For example, a legal practitioner or an attorney appointed under a general power of attorney.

Reserved decisionWhen an ACAT Member or Registrar reserves a decision (at the end of a hearing), this means they will give their decision later, either verbally or in writing (sometimes both).

RespondentThe party (or parties) against whom orders or relief is sought.

Short service orderAn order that authorises a shorter time for service (than the time otherwise required).

Serve/serviceA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.

Statement of reasonsA document that explains why ACAT made an order in a case. It sets out the law relied on by an ACAT Member or Registrar and explains how the law was applied to the facts of the case. You can request a written statement of reasons within 14 days after an order is made. Find out about statement of reasons.

StayAn order for a particular action (or decision) to be put on hold or suspended for a period of time.

SubmissionA document that sets out your side of a case or dispute and the relevant law. It is presented to ACAT either in writing, verbally or both. Find out about submissions.

SubpoenaRequires a person to appear at ACAT to give evidence or provide documents (or both). Find out about subpoenas.

Substituted service orderAn order that says how a party is to be served with an application or other documents related to the proceedings. In a civil dispute or a rental dispute, an applicant will need to consider asking for a substituted service order if they do not have a physical address for the respondent. Find out about lodging and serving documents.

WitnessA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.