New law and terminology defines mental illness in Victoria with significant changes to the legal framework that assesses and treats people with a mental illness. The Mental Health Tribunal is the independent statutory tribunal providing the safeguard for the making of compulsory treatment orders. The new law seeks to minimise compulsory mental health treatment and ensure that people with a mental illness are supported to make or participate in decisions about their assessment, treatment and recovery.


Lucy Carter

Lawyer, Mental Health Legal Centre

Voluntary patients

Admitting voluntary patients

Anyone can seek admission to a hospital for psychiatric treatment.

A person admitting themselves to hospital will be classified as a voluntary patient.

A voluntary patient can only be given treatment if they agree to it. Private hospitals can only treat voluntary patients.

Leaving an institution

A voluntary patient may leave a hospital at any time or can be discharged by the authorised psychiatrist.

However, if staff believe that a voluntary patient who wants to leave meets the criteria for compulsory treatment and detention as an involuntary patient, the patient may be detained under the provisions of involuntary admission.

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Disability, mental illness and the law