The importance of carers is recognised in the NSW Mental Health Act 2007. In Section 68, ‘Principles for care and treatment’ the Act states that:
(j) the role of carers for people with a mental illness or mental disorder and their rights under this Act to be kept informed, to be involved and to have information provided by them considered, should be given effect.
Under the Act a consumer can nominate their designated carer, i.e. the person the mental health facility will contact, share information with and involve in the consumer’s treatment and discharge planning, if the consumer does not have a guardian or is over 18 years of age. Consumers are also able to exclude a person or persons who they do not wish to receive information about them or their treatment. Consumers can nominate up to 2 designated carers. NSW Health have developed a ‘Nomination of designated carer form’ for consumers to fill out, nominating their preferred carer/s.
Carers who have not been nominated by the consumer still have rights if they are deemed to be the principal care provider by an Authorised Medical Officer (AMO). The AMO must establish that the principal care provider is the person primarily responsible for providing care to the individual. The principal care provider will then be entitled to receive information and be included, and has the same rights as the designated carer. The principal care provider and designated carer may be the same person.
There is also a requirement for AMOs and other medical practitioners to consider information provided by designated carers, principal care providers, or any relative or friend when they are making a decision to detain or discharge a consumer.
NSW Health funds non-government organisations (NGOs) to provide Family and Carer Mental Health Support Services across NSW. There is a NGO service provider in each Area Health Service. A key role for the NGOs delivering support services under this program is to provide support and information to families and carers during the early stages of diagnosis and treatment. It is also the role of these NGOs to provide:
Family and Carer Mental Health Support Services also have an important role in helping to establish peer support groups in their local area. They will not be responsible for these groups in an ongoing way, but may provide infrastructure support such as a venue, referrals and introductions, access to information and education opportunities, and advertise group activities in newsletters.
The F&CMH Support Services form partnerships in order to provide comprehensive support. The key partners are:
The Family Friendly Mental Health Service focuses on enhancing the skills of mental health service staff to work with families and carers as partners in care. Area Mental Health Services now employ staff to provide local workforce training and development and provide access to specialist clinical advice.
A family friendly mental health service is one in which clinicians and other health professionals are at all times supported to:
Carers NSW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land, Elders past and present and all Aboriginal people.