Voluntary mental health treatment

Northern Territory Mental Health Line: 1800 682 288

Voluntary admission is when you request to be admitted for mental health treatment. This can also be on the advice of your doctor or guardian.

You can ask to be assessed for admission.

You can request voluntary admission if you are any of the following:

  • over 14 years old
  • a parent or guardian of someone who is under 18 years old
  • an adult guardian.

Giving informed consent

Informed consent must be given for voluntary admission and treatment.

This means all of the following must apply:

  • you have agreed to admission without any pressure
  • you have been given information about your assessment, admission and proposed treatment and had any questioned answered
  • you understand what you are agreeing to
  • you have been told you can withdraw your consent at any time.

You will be asked to sign a form to say that you have given informed consent and you know what that means for you.

If you can't give informed consent

You may be admitted and treated as an involuntary patient, if your doctor thinks you should be admitted.

Your doctor can then apply to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NT CAT) to decide if you can give informed consent.

If you are under 18 years old

Community based treatment is preferred if you are under 18 years old.

If a young person needs treatment in a hospital, they will be cared for separately from adults where possible.

If this isn't possible, then one-to-one nursing will be arranged.

Admission: what to expect

When you arrive at hospital you will be examined by a doctor to see if you need to be admitted, and to make sure you give your consent.

Within 24 hours another doctor will examine you to decide if you still need to be in hospital and give you consent to be admitted.

If either doctor decides not to admit you, they will tell you why and explain that you need to apply for the Mental Health Review if you want to.

Telling someone where you are

It's a good idea to let someone know you have been admitted to an inpatient unit so they know you are safe.

Staff will also know who to contact if something changes and/or you are ready to be discharged.

Usually it is the primary carer who must be informed, especially if you are under 18 years old.

If you have an adult guardian, they must be told and give their consent to treatment.

Treatment: what to expect

Treatment may only be given with your consent or the consent of an adult guardian.

If the adult guardian is asked to give consent, the NT Mental Health Service must give enough information to make an informed decision.

If the doctor has applied to the tribunal to decide whether you can give informed consent, they can treat you while they are waiting for a decision if any of the following apply.

  • to prevent you hurting yourself or someone else
  • prevent you doing something that is likely to harm you or someone else
  • prevent you from becoming more unwell.

How long you can be admitted for

There is no maximum time you can be admitted for as a voluntary patient.

However, if you are admitted for six months, the tribunal will review your admission. If admission is still needed, and you can give informed consent, your treatment will continue.

If the tribunal decides you no longer need inpatient admission it can order for you to be discharged.


You have the right as a voluntary patient to leave at any time.

The doctor has the responsibility to discharge you if it is in your best interests or they believe that you will not benefit from a longer admission.

With your permission and/or if the doctor believes it is in your best interests, your carer will also be told that you have been discharged.

Your rights as a voluntary patient

Go to rights of mental health patients for more information.

Last updated: 17 February 2021

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