This factsheet is about what happens if a patient runs away from a Queensland mental health service and stays within Queensland. People who run away interstate will be subject to the corresponding laws of that state, which may or may not allow for their apprehension and return to Queensland. Absent
Mental Health Legal Service
QAI’s Mental Health Legal Service (MHLS), established in 2010 with funding from Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General and the Commonwealth Attorney-General, is a specialist legal service dedicated to providing free and independent information, advice, referrals and representation in relation to mental health law in Queensland.
In March 2017, the new Mental Health Act 2016 (Qld) commenced, heralding significant changes to the law, in particular, the role of lawyers in the Mental Health Review Tribunal. With legal representation mandatory for certain matters under the new Act, QAI was able to increase its capacity for the first time in 7 years with funding coordinated by Legal Aid Queensland.
Assistance is free, confidential and independent of Queensland Health or the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
From time to time, the MHLS also works on law reform issues and provides continuing legal education services to the legal profession and the community.
What type of work does the MHLS do?
The focus of the service is to provide advice and representation to people who have matters before the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Due to limited resources, we may not be able to provide assistance to people who do not have matters or potential matters before the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
A matter before the Mental Health Tribunal includes:
- Review of an involuntary treatment order
- Review of a forensic order
- An application for electroconvulsive therapy.
- An application to have an involuntary patient move out of Queensland.
The extent of assistance that will be provided by the MHLS is at the discretion of the service, having regard to all relevant circumstances such as the needs of the client, the merits of the case and the resources of the service.
For example, the service may:
- Provide one-off legal advice on a client’s rights and obligations under the Mental Health Act 2000 (Qld).
- Assist a client in preparing submissions for use by the client in the conduct of his or her own matter;
- Prepare a brief so that the matter may be referred for further legal advice, support or representation;
- Appear before the Mental Health Review Tribunal on behalf of a client.
We do not provide representation before the Mental Health Court. If you require assistance for a Mental Health Court matter, please contact Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88.
If the MHLS cannot assist an individual, we will try to refer the person to another organisation that may be able to assist.
Who does the MHLS assist?
The MHLS will only assist people who are consumers of mental health services. The MHLS is respectful of and encourages the assistance of family, friends and other support people. However, unless exceptional circumstances exist, only a consumer of mental health services can be a client of the MHLS.
Priority for assistance is given to people who are in-patients.
The MHLS is a Brisbane-based service, unless effective assistance can be provided by telephone.
How do I get help?
Please contact our office on 07 3844 4200 to make an appointment to speak with a mental health solicitor.
You can help us by knowing when your next Tribunal hearing is and having a copy of your clinical report available. If you do not have this information, you can contact the Mental Health Review Tribunal on 07 3235 9059 or 1800 006 478 or speak to your case manager or other member of your treating team.
Resources about mental health law
This factsheet is to provide guidance for people who will be advocating for themselves at their Mental Health Review Tribunal hearing. It also outlines tips for treatment review meetings and other meetings with your treating team, and where to get more information, advice and/or representation. Tips for self advocacy at
A plain English brochure about involuntary treatment for mental illness in Queensland under the Mental Health Act 2016 (Qld) Treatment authority brochure (pdf) Last updated 20/6/19
Do I need a lawyer at my Mental Health Review Tribunal hearing? Has the MHRT appointed a lawyer for me? What if I do not want a lawyer to represent me? What are the lawyer’s responsibilities? What are my responsibilities to my lawyer? What can I do if I have
Mental Health Act Statement of Rights – Queensland Health statement
Patient Rights under the Mental Health Act 2016 – 10min video produced by West Moreton IPRAs on patient rights
Self help guide to representing yourself on a treatment authority review – LawRight Factsheet