The Mental Health Act 2014 has been reformed to create the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022. This change was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. The new Act outlines the legislative framework for Victoria’s mental health care system and establishes new roles and entities as recommended by the Royal Commission.
The new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022 comes into effect on September 1st, 2023. Here we outline what the new Act means for Victorians impacted by eating disorders and those that work in the sector.
What is the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act?
What does this mean for the eating disorder sector & affected community?
Detailed information about the new Act is available on the Victorian Department of Health website here. Below we have outlined four changes that we believe are of particular importance to our community.
- More patient autonomy, including broader advance statements and opt out non-legal mental health advocacy.
- Less restrictive care, with the goal of elimination
- Clearer pathways for formal complaints for carers and support people
- Greater opportunities and leadership for those with lived experience
1. More patient autonomy
What is an advance statement of preferences? How has this changed with the new Act?
An advance statement of preferences, also known as an advance directive or a psychiatric advance directive, is a legal document that allows individuals to express their preferences and instructions regarding their future mental health treatment and care. It is a way for people to have a say in their treatment when they may be unable to communicate their wishes due to mental incapacity or illness.
Under the new Act, the scope of preferences that can be included in an advance statement is broader around people’s treatment, care, and support needs.
The Act does not define the below specifically, but this can include:
- Treatment preferences
- Medication preferences
- Healthcare provider preferences
- Preferred treatment settings
- Emergency contacts
- Specific triggers or warning signs
Under the new Act, there is specific reinforcement that all reasonable steps must be taken to check if a person has an advance statement of preferences before administering care or treatment.
What is the new opt out non-legal mental health advocacy?
For all individuals at risk of or receiving compulsory treatment, the new Act establishes non-legal advocacy services through the Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMAH) service. The service is opt out, which means that unless otherwise specified, those who are at risk of or currently receiving compulsory treatment will be assigned a mental health advocate to help them understand their rights and have as much say as possible on their assessment, treatment and recovery. This measure recognises the need for supported decision making, helping people understand information and exercise their rights.
If you would like to opt-out of this process, you can do this online here.
2. Less restrictive care
What are the changes to restrictive care (seclusion and restraint)?
The Act does not prohibit the use of restrictive interventions but sets out clear objectives for services to meet the 10-year elimination goal. To support this, the Act establishes the Chief Officer for Mental Health and Wellbeing that will develop targets and a strategy to ultimately eliminate seclusion and restraint.
3. Carers and supporters
What support is available for carers and supporters?
The Act allows for flexibility so that all reasonable steps for support can be tailored to meet the needs of the support person. Under the Act, a support person can have access to certain information about the person they are supporting, this includes copies of treatment orders, and reports and decisions made that relate to treatment.
There is no age limit on who can be nominated as a support person (e.g., can be a 16-year-old child of a person receiving treatment, if they have a close, supportive relationship).
Carers and support people will also now have a clear pathway to make formal complaints about their experiences with the mental health system.
4. New lived experience workforce
How is lived experience involved in implementing the new Act?
The Act establishes Victoria’s new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission. The Commission is designed to hold government to account for the performance, quality and safety of Victoria’s mental health and wellbeing system. It will also drive cultural change across the system by elevating the leadership and full participation of people with lived experience.
The Act also establishes Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Victoria. This statutory body has been established to address the emerging evidence of the youth mental health crisis. The body will be governed by young people (aged 18-25) with lived experience and will provide system leadership and strategic advice on issues relating to youth mental health.
How will health care professionals be supported to enact this new legislation?
A series of resources, FAQs, forums and webinars will assist the sector to understand the reforms and transition to the new legislation. Health professionals should stay up to date with resources from the Victorian government here.
An e-learning training course covering the foundations of the new Act along with support workers to understand and implement the new laws has been established and an online helpdesk will be set up to respond to professionals’ questions about services.
How can EDV help?
EDV has a range of free support services available to any Victorian impacted by eating disorders.
- EDV Hub – helpline service providing information, navigation and general support. Open Mon – Fri, 9.30am – 4.30pm.
- Telehealth Counselling – up to five, free 30minute sessions with a trained counsellor to help you take the next step in your recovery. Whether you are just starting to seek help, are on a waitlist for treatment or are wanting to re-engage with support after relapse, EDV’s understanding Counselling team are here to support you. Carers and families are also encouraged to speak to EDV Telehealth Counsellors.
- Telehealth Nurse – free and expert guidance with registered nurses who specialise in eating disorders. Nurses listen to your unique circumstance and help you navigate and access specialised eating disorder services. Nurses can also support clients and health professionals around medical management for eating disorders.
- Online Support Groups – peer-led groups that provide an open space to discuss what you are struggling with, reflect on current challenges and discuss coping tools. Different groups are available depending on your needs. You are welcome to attend multiple groups.
- Carer and Family Support – carer specific services including Carer Coaching and online courses.
- LearnED eLearning platform – for self-paced education and online courses
- EDV Podcast – for lived experience perspectives and professional insights
- EDV Newsletters – for recovery support delivered directly to your inbox each month