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 psychiatrist can make a written direction to restrict an inpatient’s right to communicate if they are satisfied that it is reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the inpatient or another person. The restriction must be the least restrictive possible in the circumstances.

The authorised psychiatrist must regularly review the decision to restrict an inpatient’s right to communicate and must cease the restriction 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 to communicate 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 of 16) and the Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services (if the inpatient is on a family reunification order or care by Secretary order) of the restriction and the reason for it.