Empty psych ward bed

Can We Force Someone To Seek Mental Health Treatment?

Imagine going to your doctor and having treatment forced upon you. This is called compulsory treatment and in Australia it’s legal.

Compulsory mental health treatment is when a psychiatrist believes a patient is at severe risk of harming themselves or others, and can be forced to take medication or undergo treatment.

Dr Kay Wilson from the University of Melbourne joins The Briefing to explain how compulsory treatment works:

“Imagine being forced to take a medication with serious side effects that may not actually give you much benefit at all,” Dr Wilson said.

Studies have retroactively asked people how they felt about their compulsory treatment. Wilson said a third felt their rights were violated, and another third agreed they needed treatment, but felt it was a “violent experience”.

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Wilson said that while legislation surrounding mental health tends to focus on preventing violence, this can increase discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses.

“It kind of creates this false impression that all people with mental illness are violent, which which is completely incorrect,” she said.

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