Anyone who is required to communicate with a consumer, family member, carer, guardian, nominated support person or complainant must take reasonable steps to:
- explain what they are communicating
- answer questions as clearly and completely as possible
- provide appropriate supports to help the person understand the information, make decisions and communicate their views.
Any person or organisation required by the Act to communicate with a consumer, family member, carer, guardian, nominated support person or a person making a complaint to the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission must take reasonable steps to explain what they are communicating. They must also answer questions as clearly and completely as possible.
If a person is incapable of understanding information or any oral explanation at the time when it would otherwise be provided, the entity must ensure that reasonable further attempts are made to provide the information or explanation at a time when the person is able to understand the information or explanation.
The person or organisation must also take reasonable steps to provide appropriate supports to assist the person being communicated with.
Appropriate supports are defined in the Act to be measures which can reasonably be provided to assist a person to:
- make decisions and participate in decision making
- understand information and their rights
- communicate their views, preferences, questions, or decisions.
Some examples of appropriate supports include:
- using a preferred language, including use of interpreters
- communicating in an accessible format, including, for example, using technology
- tailoring communication to the person's needs, this could include their literacy level, developmental needs or cultural needs
- communicating in an appropriate physical or sensory environment
- allowing and enabling the person's family member, carer, supporter or advocate to be present, including by the use of technology if not in person
- providing space for communication with family members, carers, supporters or advocates.
Reasonable steps must be taken to work out what supports may assist the person. This could involve:
- asking a person what supports may assist them to communicate and participate in decisions
- providing a person with information about the supports available to them, so they can identify what may assist them
- in the case of a patient, having regard to the patient's advance statement of preferences
- in the case of a patient, asking their nominated support person what supports may assist the patient to communicate and participate in decision making.
How does this compare with the Mental Health Act 2014?
The Mental Health Act 2014 requires information to be provided in both oral and written form whenever possible and to be explained to a patient to the maximum extent possible in the patient’s preferred language and mode of communication.
The Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022 builds on this and extends obligations to support communication to any consumer and their families, carers and supporters as listed above.
The new Act more clearly articulates the obligation to assist people to not only understand information but also to participate in decision making and communicate views, as well as expectations as to the supports that should be provided to achieve this.
Reviewed 13 August 2023