Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination

Family/Whanau Code of Rights

For Family/Whanau of a person who either has, or may be developing a major mental illness.

The 'Code of Family Rights' is for the family/whanau of a person who either has,

or may be developing a major mental illness.

The Code advocates the Family/Whanau have the right to:

A family-centred approach to treatment and support.

Research shows that when the family is integrated into the treatment team, better care, management, and outcome is achieved for the person with mental illness. You have a right to services which educate and inform families about mental illness. Mental health services must support families and protect the rights of families.
Be treated with understanding and respect.
This is a basic right which must be adhered to by all health services when dealing with clients of their service.
Be taken seriously when expressing concerns about changes in a person's behaviour.
A caring relationship should be supported and fostered by mental health services. It is important that family/whanau concerns are not ignored or avoided by mental health workers. Family/whanau, as users of health services, have the right to clearly communicate with health workers, and have open, honest, and effective discussions.
Information about a family member's illness, the diagnosis, treatment and possible side effects of treatment.
Your family member may refuse consent for a health professional to give you specific information. You are still entitled to education and information about mental illness in general, and strategies for coping.
Information on the range of relevant services and supports available in the community.
All services for individuals and families should be coordinated. Ask about help with accommodation, employment, education, recreation, and economic support.
Provide relevant information about a family member's history, in confidence.
You should be listened to. There is nothing to prevent you from advising a health practitioner about matters relating to the treatment of your relative.  Your confidentiality and privacy must be respected.
Inclusion in care planning, implementation and review.
Working together ensures that the goals for treatment, care and recovery are understood and agreed to by everyone involved. The needs of your relative, and your needs will change over time. A good service will treat families as equal partners in care, so that the chances for recovery are maximised.
Know the names and contact phone numbers of other members of the caregiving team.
This is an essential component of 'coordinated care'.  If you are supporting a person in the community, you must know who to call for help if you need advice or assistance in your caring role.
Rapid response in all situations, but especially in an emergency.
This is a basic consumer right. Every mental health service which provides emergency assistance is required to do so within a specified time limit, usually 4-6 hours. Families and consumers should be aware of service responsibilities.
Be consulted about a family member's discharge plan.
Hospital discharge plans should be developed in collaboration with families and carers. It is a legal requirement that information about discharge from compulsory treatment is given to primary caregivers.
Help for problems created or exacerbated by caring for a family member with a mental illness.
The best treatment for mental illness includes supporting the family/whanau and other carers as well as the person with the illness. You should be given information, education, and support so that you are able to cope with difficult events.
Time out when required to prevent "burnout" or to cope with stress.
If you are a full-time carer for a person with a chronic illness you are entitled to annual 'carer support'. Allocation of respite time (to a maximum of 28 days) is based on the assessed need of the carer.
Seek other opinions regarding the diagnosis and treatment of a relative.
You have the right to professional assistance which is effective and helpful. A second opinion is standard practice in all branches of medicine.
Culturally accepted treatment options which are inclusive of the family.
Mental health services are legally required to take into account your cultural, religious, social and ethnic needs, values, and beliefs.
Mechanisms of complaint and redress.
You have the right to complain to the District Inspector of Mental Health, the Director of Area Mental Health Services, and the Health and Disability Commissioner if you are unhappy with mental health services.
A mental health service that recognises the need for families to participate in shaping the service, and invites families to take part in service planning, implementation and evaluation.

Family/whanau experience and advice is a valuable resource, which should be used by mental health service planners to improve treatment and care for individuals and families.

Acknowledgement: Supporting Families in Mental Illness

Further information on these rights is available from

Supporting Families Taranaki, 06-757-9300 or

Taranaki Health Mental Health and Addiction Services

has in place both a Consumer Participation Policy and a Family/Whanau Participation Policy.  These policies clearly define expectations of the Consumer/Tangata Whai Ora, Family/Whanau and staff on how everybody should work in partnership to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Like Minds Taranaki gratefully acknowledges the financial support of this website by the Ministry of Health

Feedback is always welcome


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Taranaki Mental Health Sector