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Have you been involuntarily admitted to a hospital?

Find out your rights and where to get help

If you have you been involuntarily admitted to a hospital, you have rights

  • Under the Mental Health Act 2007, you must be seen by a doctor within 12 hours. You can only be forced to stay if that doctor believes you are “mentally ill” or “mentally disordered” as defined under the Act.
  • Another doctor must see you “as soon as possible”. This would normally be within the next few days. One of the two doctors who sees you must be a psychiatrist. If the two doctors disagree, you will see another psychiatrist who will decide if you need to stay in hospital.
  • Under the Act you may be kept in a mental health facility for up to three working days if the doctors consider you to be “mentally disordered”. If you are considered to be “mentally ill”, you may be kept in a hospital until a mental health inquiry is held by the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
  • Your admission will be reviewed by the Mental Health Review Tribunal after you have been in hospital for at least one week.

If you believe that you should not be detained in a hospital, you may ask to be discharged.

How do I request a discharge?

All you have to do is tell a staff member that you want to be discharged. It is best to complete Discharge Form (see next page) so that there is a record that the request has been made.

What happens next?

You must be seen by a doctor and have your request to be discharged decided within three working days. If you are not discharged or have not been given an answer that satisfies you within three working days, you can appeal to the Mental Health Review Tribunal. You can request this verbally or by completing the Appeal Form (see page 3) and giving it to a doctor or nurse. The hospital must then arrange for the Tribunal to hear your appeal.

Can Legal Aid NSW help?

Yes. A lawyer will come and see you or talk to you before your first appearance before the Tribunal.

Contact the Mental Health Advocacy Service on 9745 4277 or your local Legal Aid NSW office for more information or assistance.


If your request for discharge has been denied, you may appeal to the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Complete this appeal form and give it to a nurse or doctor.

To: The Registrar

Mental Health Review Tribunal

PO Box 2019


My name is:

I am an involuntary patient at: (name of mental health facility)

I have applied to an authorised medical officer for discharge under Section 44 (1) of the Mental Health Act 2007.

I want to appeal to the Mental Health Review Tribunal against the authorised medical officer’s:

  • refusal to discharge me
  • failure to make a determination on my application for discharge within 3 working days after I made the application.

(Tick one box only)




I want to be discharged. This is my request.

Complete this form first and give to a nurse or doctor to request your discharge from

To the authorised medical officer:

Hospital name:

I wish to be discharged from this hospital, pursuant to section 42 of the Mental Health Act 2007 (the Act).

My name is:

My date of birth:

Signed Date

About the Mental Health Review Tribunal

The Mental Health Review Tribunal makes decisions about the care, treatment and recovery of people who experience mental illness. Other than for mental health inquiries, which are generally conducted by a single legal member of the Tribunal, each Tribunal panel consists of three members: a lawyer, a psychiatrist, and another suitably qualified member. All Tribunal members have extensive experience in mental health.

The Tribunal conducts hearings in hospitals and community health centres throughout NSW. Except at a few large hospitals in Sydney, most tribunal hearings and mental health inquiries are conducted by video conference. The Tribunal does not operate in a formal manner like a court, but will ask questions and consider reports presented to it to ensure that people are given a fair opportunity to be heard and are not made subject to involuntary treatment unless the legal basis for it is established and the requirements of the Mental Health Act 2007 are met.

Need more help?

Contact the Mental Health Advocacy Service on 9745 4277 or your local Legal Aid NSW office.

You can also speak to the Legal Aid lawyer who attends the hospital.

Legal Aid NSW mental health services

  • Mental Health Advocacy Service, Burwood 9745 4277
  • Coffs Harbour: 6651 7899
  • Dubbo: 6885 4233
  • Gosford: 4324 5611
  • Lismore: 6621 2082
  • Newcastle: 4929 5482
  • Orange: 6362 8022
  • Tamworth: 6766 6322
  • Wagga Wagga: 6921 6588
  • Wollongong: 4228 8299

This publication is a general guide to the law. You should not rely on it as legal advice, and we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about your situation.

The information is correct at the time of printing. However it may change. For more information contact LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529.

Order brochures online at www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/publications or email: publications@legalaid.nsw.gov.au

Do you need an interpreter?

If you need help to talk to us in your language, call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450 (9am – 5pm).

Do you find it hard to hear or speak?

If you find it hard to hear or speak:

  • call us through the National Relay Service on 133 677 or www.relayservice.gov.au or
  • call LawAccess NSW on 1300 889 529.

© Legal Aid NSW 2019

August 2019                                        MNLA60096