Improving Mental Health Act rights advice communications and practices


  • Kimberly Miller
    Simon Fraser University
  • Vanessa Bland 
    Vancouver Coastal Health

Team members:

  • Sandra Dawson 
    Patient partner
  • Laura Johnston
    Community Legal Assistance Society
  • Erin Michalak
    University of British Columbia
  • Jessica Wang 
    Patient partner


  • Iva Cheung 
    PhD student

Under the provincial Mental Health Act, patients involuntarily hospitalized for a mental disorder must be informed of their rights upon admission. But in a 2011 survey of short-stay mental health patients, 43 percent of respondents said they were not explained their rights in an understandable way. Qualitative research by Iva Cheung suggests this gap may be due to inconsistent rights-advice practices and an ineffective communication tool.

Clinicians use a statutory form to give rights advice to involuntary patients, but user testing of this form with people with lived experience has uncovered weaknesses in the document, from the patient’s perspective, as a communication tool.

With this award, the research team aims to apply evidence from that user testing to create a new suite of rights-advice communication tools and a training program for clinicians to implement these tools. Two patient partners on the team will co-create the communications, which will be user tested with people with lived experience, to make them as clear and useful to patients as possible. The team’s research user co-lead, an experienced resource nurse with a mentorship role and access to 11 psychiatric units, will contribute her knowledge of rights-advice practices and clinical workflows to ensure that the tools will be practical to use in hospital settings. The legal expert on the team will review the tools for legal accuracy.

The research user co-lead will champion this research in her workplace and help develop an interactive training program for clinicians who give rights advice. This training will

Expected outcomes:

The activities of this team, with a balance of researcher, clinician, and patient representation, align well with integrated knowledge translation best practices and with the health authority’s priority of providing patient-centred care.