About the Mental Health Act

Find out about the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992  and the role and responsibilities of the Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

About the act

The Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 (the Mental Health Act) provides a legal framework for those who require for those who require compulsory psychiatric assessment and treatment for people experiencing a mental illness.

The Mental Health Act defines the rights of patients and proposed patients to provide protection for those rights, and generally to reform and consolidate the law relating to the assessment and treatment of person suffering from mental disorder.

‘Mental disorder’ is defined in section 2 of the Mental Health Act as:

mental disorder, in relation to any person, means an abnormal state of mind (whether of a continuous or an intermittent nature), characterised by delusions, or by disorders of mood or perception or volition or cognition, of such a degree that it—

(a) poses a serious danger to the health or safety of that person or of others; or

(b) seriously diminishes the capacity of that person to take care of himself or herself;—

and mentally disordered, in relation to any such person, has a corresponding meaning.

See Guidelines and resources for more information about the Act.

The Office of the Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services

At the Ministry of Health, the Office of the Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services (the Office) works in a regulatory role for the Mental Health Act. The Office maintains oversight of the services that administer the Mental Health Act and ensures the rights and protection of those subject to compulsory assessment and treatment within New Zealand mental health services.

Under section 91 of the Mental Health Act, the Director-General of Health appoints a Director of Mental Health and Deputy Director of Mental Health. The Director and Deputy-Director have primary responsibility for the general administration of the Mental Health Act under the direction of the Minister of Health and Director-General of Health.

For more detailed information on our roles and responsibilities, each year, the Director of Mental Health publishes an Office of the Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services Annual Report.

These reports present information on the overview of the legislation and service delivery contexts in which the Office operates; work carried out by the Office that year; and statistics, including the use of compulsion, seclusion, reportable deaths, and electroconvulsive therapy.

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