Involuntary mental health treatment

Northern Territory Mental Health Line: 1800 682 288

You can be admitted involuntarily to a treatment facility because of mental illness or mental disturbance. This is called a detention order. 

You must not leave the facility unless your doctor gives you a leave of absence.

You must also accept any necessary psychiatric treatment that is ordered by your doctor.

When you can be admitted

A doctor must examine you either in person or by video conference.

You must have either refused or are unable to give consent to treatment. There must also be no less restrictive treatment option.

A doctor must be satisfied that the following also apply to you: 

  • mental illness
  • mental disturbance.

Mental illness

A doctor must be be satisfied that all of the following apply:

  • you have a mental illness 
  • because of that illness you need treatment in any facility
  • without that treatment you are likely to seriously harm yourself or someone else or become more unwell.

Mental disturbance

A doctor must be satisfied that all of the following apply:

  • you do not fulfil the criteria on the grounds of mental illness
  • your behaviour is, or over the past 48 hours has been, irrational and leads to the conclusion that:
    • you are not reasoning and functioning in the same way as you normally do
    • your behaviour has been either abnormally aggressive or irresponsible to justify the need for psychiatric assessment or care at a facility. 
  • unless you receive treatment you are unlikely to seriously harm yourself or someone else or become more unwell. 

Where you can be admitted to

You must be admitted to the inpatient unit of an approved treatment facility under the Mental Health and Related Services Act.

It must be able to provide care and treatment for people with a mental illness or mental disturbance.

Admission: what to expect

Involuntary admissions of more than six hours can only be made by a doctor or psychiatrist.

If you have a mental illness, you will be examined by another doctor within 24 hours.

If you have a mental disturbance, you will be examined within 72 hours.

If both doctors agree, you can be held for a maximum of 14 days, or seven days if you have a mental disturbance. 

If either the first or second doctor decide you don't need to be admitted as an involuntary patient, they may consider admitting you as a voluntary patient with your consent, or consider involuntary treatment in the community

If the team treating you believe you need to stay in hospital, they can apply to the tribunal for your admission to be continued.

If the doctors think you are well enough to go home at any time during the treatment, the involuntary admission order must be cancelled. 

Reviewing your admission

All involuntary admissions are reviewed within 14 days for mental illness or 10 days for mental disturbance by the tribunal.

However, you have the right to apply for an early review at any time. 

You should speak to your nurse and ask for help filling in the form, if you need it.

Your review will take place the next time the tribunal sits in the facility, which is Wednesdays in Darwin and Fridays in Alice Springs.

Your review must be lodged before 12 noon two days before the tribunal sits.

The tribunal may decide that your admission should continue or you should be released. 

You will also examined by a doctor every 72 hours to make sure you should still be admitted.

If your doctor decides you no longer need involuntary admission, they can revoke your involuntary order. 

Treatment: what to expect

A doctor will prepare a treatment plan that takes your specific needs, preference and concerns into account.

However, if they think certain treatments are necessary for your wellbeing, they can include them in your treatment plan without your consent. 

Your doctor will submit your treatment plan to the tribunal for consideration. Your plan will be reviewed regularly and adjusted if necessary.

Your rights as an involuntary patient

Go to rights of mental health patients to find out more information.

Last updated: 27 June 2017