About the Mental Health Advocacy Service

Provides information about the Mental Health Advocacy Service (MHAS), our approach, advocates, and recruitment.

The statutory office of the Chief Mental Health Advocate was created under part 20 of the Mental Health Act 2014 (the Act).

The Mental Health Advocacy Service (MHAS) commenced operations on 30 November 2014 replacing the Council of Official Visitors which operated under the Mental Health Act 1996.

The Act requires that MHAS contact or visit involuntary patients:

  •  adults within 7 days of being made involuntary
  •  children (under 18) within 24 hours of being made involuntary

MHAS is an independent body. It provides mental health advocacy services, and rights protection functions, to ‘identified persons’. Identified persons are:

  • an involuntary patient in hospital.
  • someone on a Community Treatment Order (CTO).
  • someone who has been referred for examination by a psychiatrist.
  • a voluntary patient in a hospital being detained for assessment and unable to leave.
  • a mentally impaired accused person who is detained in an authorised hospital or living in the community. For example, on a Hospital or Custody Order. (Under the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996)
  • a resident of a private psychiatric hostel.

Our approach

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We are committed to person-centred advocacy in which mental health advocates express the wishes of the patient.

The MHAS is dedicated to ensuring all consumers are: 

  • informed of their rights, 
  • their rights are observed, and 
  • their wishes made known and had regard to.

Advocates will:

  • advise the person of their rights, options and possible consequences, to help them make decisions.
  • support the consumer to express their own wishes about their situation and what they want to happen. They will always aim to empower the consumer
  • respect all parties and acknowledge their diverse obligations.
  • hearing from other parties when given permission to do so by the consumer.
  • identify and raise systemic issues in mental health services affecting the health, safety or wellbeing of consumers.

Advocates will not:

  • adopt “best interests advocacy” except in the case of children and in accordance with Part 18 of the Act
  • counsel or befriend consumers or their personal support persons
  • provide their opinion
  • create barriers between mental health service providers and consumers
  • raise unrealistic expectations
  • speak for the consumer without prior consultation with them.

Wherever possible, the Advocate will assist the consumer to express their own needs and wishes.

Non-instructed Advocacy

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On occasion, Advocates will be required to provide non-instructed advocacy for people who are unable to fully communicate their wishes or needs. 

Non-instructed advocacy can be described as:

...taking affirmative action with or on behalf of a person who is unable to give a clear indication of their views or wishes in a specific situation. The non-instructed advocate seeks to: 

  • uphold the person’s rights; 
  • ensure fair and equal treatment and access to services; 
  • make certain that decisions are taken with due consideration for their unique preferences and perspectives... (Henderson, 2006)

In such circumstances, the Advocate will endeavour to discover the consumer’s likes, dislikes, interests and needs before providing advocacy. 

However, where this is not possible, Advocates will act from the perspective of what is fair and equitable when compared to the services provided to others in their situation. In this way they ensure that their rights are upheld.

Under the Act, advocacy for children should take into account the wishes of the child in so far as these can be discerned but must have as its primary concern 'the best interest of the child'.

Systemic Advocacy

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We provide a systemic overview of services from an advocacy stance and promote compliance with the Act and the Charter of Mental Health Care Principles.

The Mental Health Act 2014 (the Act) is built around the 15 principles described in the Charter of Mental Health Care Principles. This provides a comprehensive set of expectations patients can have when receiving mental health service care and treatment.

Our people

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Dr Sarah Pollock is the Chief Advocate appointed by the Minister for Mental Health. Under the Act, the Chief must engage one or more Mental Health Advocates including a specialist Youth Advocate.

Senior Mental Health Advocates

Mental Health Advocates with the additional responsibility of carrying out functions delegated by the Chief, are Senior Mental Health Advocates. 

Senior Mental Health Advocates report directly to the Chief. 

Mental Health Advocates

Mental Health Advocates visit identified persons in mental health services. For example, secure wards, psychiatric hostels or emergency departments. They do not work from the office. They have mental health training, support and guidance from the Chief, Senior Mental Health Advocates or other delegate.

Mental Health Advocates report to and liaise with, a Senior Mental Health Advocate. 

Our organisation

Most people who work in the MHAS are Mental Health Advocates and are out in the community assisting consumers. 

The Chief and Senior Mental Health Advocates and a small administrative team work in the MHAS office. Their main role is to support the Mental Health Advocates in the field.

Recruitment

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MHAS periodically recruits for Advocates in the metropolitan area and in Albany, Broome, Bunbury and Kalgoorlie, as well as specialist Youth Advocates and Aboriginal Advocates.  

If you would like to register your interest for future vacancies, please email MHAS.recruitment@mhas.wa.gov.au and advise your area of interest, and we will inform you (by email) when we are next recruiting.

Page reviewed 17 March 2022