Carers of people with a mental illness

Carers are recognised in the NSW Mental Health Act. The NSW Government also provides a number of support services and resources to assist carers of people living with a mental illness.

Rights of carers in NSW mental health law

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. 

Read more about carers rights under the Act on this carers in this factsheet produced by Way Ahead

Read the Mental Health Act 2007 in full

Family and Carer Mental Health (F&CMH) Programs

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:

  • Education and training packages which teach families and carers about mental illness and its management and help to build coping skills and resilience
  • Individual support and advocacy services for families and carers of people with a mental illness
  • Infrastructure support for peer support groups.

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:

  • Families and carers
  • Consumers
  • Area Mental Health Services
  • Other NGOs working with families and carers (not funded by this program)
  • Generic and family carer support providers e.g. carer support officers
  • Respite service providers.

Read the Family and Carer Mental Health Support Services Provider List

Read the NSW Health Family Carers brochure  

Family Friendly Mental Health Services

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:

  • Consider the family and carer network or system throughout the consumer journey
  • Support consumers to involve their families and carers in the most appropriate way for both the consumer and the family and carer
  • Provide general information to families and carers, such as about how the mental health system works, and fact sheets about different mental illnesses, treatments etc.
  • Recognise family and carer needs, and provide information and/or referrals to help them access support, information, education and advocacy
  • Recognise that the needs of families and carers change over time, and to respond to these changes
  • Recognise their own personal and organisational values, and ensure that they operate to the benefit and not detriment of families, carers and consumers.

Read the Connecting with Carers is Everybody’s Business Handbook 



High Contrast Switch

Carers NSW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land, Elders past and present and all Aboriginal people.