Mental Health Tribunal Representation Scheme (MHTRS) - ATI's volunteer program

Purpose

The MHTRS provides free representation to people with a mental illness who have been listed to appear before the Mental Health Tribunal (MHT). This is consistent with the United Nations Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care, and provides much needed support for people with mental illness to have their say in matters that affect them.

Background

Prior to its introduction, people appearing before the MHT for review of their involuntary orders were unrepresented at a time when major decisions about their liberty and life choices were being decided.

In 2003, ATI obtained funding from Mental Health Services to commence representations in the Hobart area. In 2004, additional funding was secured to further develop the initiative and appoint a MHTRS Co-ordinator. By mid-2005, the Scheme was extended statewide. This meant that every person appearing before the MHT had access to a Representative who could provide them with information about the process and who would accompany them at their MHT hearing should they so choose.

Since 2003, the MHTRS has offered assistance to over 3700 people listed to appear before the MHT. In addition, over 1000 people have participated in ATI's MHTRS training.

Volunteer Representatives

ATI is only able to operate the MHTRS due to the commitment and dedication of its Representatives.

What support does ATI provide to Representatives?

ATI has dedicated staff who provide Representatives with:

  • A comprehensive training and induction program
  • An opportunity to hear directly from experienced mental health practitioners and the President of the MHT
  • Support and advice
  • Supporting materials including the MHTRS training manual, ATI policies and procedures
  • Feedback from the MHT
  • Networking opportunities
  • A standard MHTRS reimbursement of expenses on completion of representations
  • On completion of four annual satisfactory representations, a MHTRS Statement of Volunteer Service

What exactly is involved in a representation?

Hearings are listed in Hobart, Launceston and the North West each fortnight. The MHTRS Co-ordinator seeks expressions of interest from our Representatives and assigns each client with a Representative.

The Representative will then:

  • Meet with the client at the hospital (e.g. Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, Royal Hobart Hospital, Spencer Clinic, North West Regional Hospital, Northside, Launceston General Hospital) for clients under a Continuing Care Order, or for Community Treatment Order clients, at the MHT-listed venue such as the MHT Office, Victoria Street, Hobart or ACMHS, Frankland Street, Launceston
  • Provide information and support to the client to self-represent at the MHT hearing or be briefed by the client in order to effectively represent the client's wishes and ensure that they have a voice in regard to proceedings
  • Attend the MHT hearing
  • Complete a brief report detailing any issues arising and the MHT's determination (half page maximum)

What would my time commitment be?

To complete the above process, Representatives generally need to be available for up to 2 hours. Representatives determine their availability and frequency of representations. However, it is important that Representatives are able to retain both knowledge of the process and their skills by undertaking a minimum of four representations annually. Of course, those Representatives who are able to undertake more hearings are certainly encouraged to advise our scheduling staff of their availability.

Why should I consider becoming a MHTRS Representative?

Our Representatives willingly give their time, skills and experience to assist those who are often marginalised and most vulnerable. Clearly, there is merit and great rewards in such altruism, and this is what drives our Representatives. However, there are other study/work-related, social and emotional benefits in becoming a Representative.

These include:

  • Attaining an ATI MHTRS Statement of Volunteer Service which is a great addition to any resumé
  • Being able to demonstrate commitment, a sense of social justice, and a greater awareness of mental health issues as well as skills in successfully supporting people who are unwell
  • Learning new skills and consolidating existing skills
  • Building communication and interpersonal skills
  • Networking
  • Increasing confidence and self esteem
  • Gaining valuable experience that will enhance employability, particularly for those employers who understand the prevalence of mental health issues within their own workplaces and the wider community

Entry requirements

To become a MHTRS Representative you must:

  • Have a strong commitment to ensuring that the rights of people who are mentally ill are respected
  • Demonstrate a high degree of empathy and understanding towards people with a mental illness
  • Obtain a satisfactory National Police Check (ATI funded)
  • Complete the required training
  • Be confident to speak, and represent their client’s views, before the MHT
  • Have some time spare (minimum annual commitment of 8 hours) to help others

Awards

The MHTRS received a Human Rights Award for Humanitarian Services in December, 2005.

Training

Training is free and conducted across the State annually. It consists of an overview of the MHTRS, information on the major mental illnesses, a presentation from the President of the MHT, Ms Debra Rigby, and workshops designed to equip future Representatives with the more practical skills which will enable them to successfully assist clients and to meet ATI's volunteer requirements.

Interested?

If you are interested in taking on a rewarding volunteer role where you will receive training, guidance and ongoing support, then becoming a MHTRS Representative may be for you.

Please contact Advocacy Tasmania Inc. for more information by telephone (03) 62 242240 or by email: mhrep@advocacytasmania.org.au


Supported and funded by:

   

The MHTRS is a partnership between Advocacy Tasmania Inc., the Mental Health Tribunal, the University of Tasmania - School of Law and the Department of Health and Human Services, Statewide and Mental Health Services.