Understanding Rights and Treatments

It is important that staff working in emergency department (ED) settings are familiar with the relevant Mental Health Act in their State or Territory.

Among the people we spoke to, many reported not being given a range of treatment options or opportunities to participate in decision-making when they presented to the ED with a mental health concern. Some people described wanting to avoid a particular medication because of unwanted side effects but finding that treating professionals did not take the time to listen or respond to their concerns. Others explained how certain treatment responses or the involvement of particular people in their care can be triggering because of a past trauma. How staff respond to requests, handle objections, and communicate why certain treatment decisions have been made all influence a person’s experience of mental healthcare.

People explained how they can find it easier to feel safe and trust ED staff when they feel supported to have input into treatment. Accommodating a person’s preferences around treatment and care may help to reduce conflict and limit the potential need for restrictive interventions. Practicing person-centred care can help staff to work more effectively with and provide better support to people who present to the ED with a mental health related concern.

Key points

  • Understanding how relevant Mental Health legislation applies will help staff to uphold a person’s right to participate in decisions made around their treatment and care.
  • Talking to people about what treatment options are available and finding a way to respond to any questions or concerns they might raise can help build trust and rapport.
  • Fostering trust, establishing mutual respect, and working together to make decisions around care can promote more positive interactions and reduce the potential for conflict.
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