Department of Health

Key messages

  • Patients in a designated mental health service have a right to communicate lawfully.
  • Communication is the ability to send or receive letters, make or receive telephone calls, communicate via electronic means, or receive visitors at a designated mental health service at reasonable times.
  • Inpatients must be able to communicate privately and without censorship.
  • An authorised psychiatrist can restrict an inpatient’s right to communicate if it is reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the inpatient or another person.
  • An authorised psychiatrist who restricts an inpatient’s right to communicate must take reasonable steps to inform the inpatient and certain other persons, of the restriction and the reason for it.

Can communication be restricted?

An authorised psychiatristcan make a written direction to restrict an inpatient’s right tocommunicate if they are satisfied that it is reasonably necessary toprotect the health, safety and wellbeing of the inpatient or anotherperson. The restriction must be the least restrictive possible in thecircumstances.

The authorised psychiatrist must regularly review the decision torestrict an inpatient’s right to communicate and must cease therestriction immediately if satisfied that it is no longer necessary.

An inpatient’s right to communicate with a legal representative, the Chief Psychiatrist, the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner, the Mental Health Tribunal, a community visitor or the Independent Mental Health Advocacy service (IMHA) cannot be restricted.

An authorised psychiatrist who restricts an inpatient’s right tocommunicate must take reasonable steps to inform the inpatient, their nominated person, guardian, carer (if the restriction will directly affect the carer and the care relationship), a parent (if the inpatient is under the age of16) and the Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services (if theinpatient is on a family reunification order or care by Secretary order) of the restriction and the reason for it.

Reviewed 29 May 2015

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