Guidelines to improve sexual safety in mental health services
- The Chief Psychiatrist is responsible for setting and overseeing the standards of care provided by mental health services to consumers in WA.
- Ensuring people accessing mental health services feel and are sexually safe is essential to their recovery.
Mental health services have made progress over many years in improving sexual safety within mental health services but there is still much more to be done. In 2019-20, there were still 31 reported allegations of sexual assault in mental health services in WA. The Chief Psychiatrist has developed Guidelines for the Sexual Safety of Consumers of Mental Health Services in Western Australia, which provide guidance and practical strategies to improve sexual safety in mental health services.
Sexual safety refers to being and feeling psychologically and physically safe, including being free of, and feeling safe from behaviour of a sexual nature that is unwanted, or makes another person feel uncomfortable, afraid or unsafe.
The Guidelines are aimed at ensuring that all people- consumers, their families, visitors and staff- are sexually safe in WA mental health services. The guidelines are part of a commitment to providing person-centred, recovery-focused and trauma-informed care, through developing best practice guidelines for mental health services. They were developed through wide consultation with consumers, carers, community members and clinicians.
While they apply to mental health services under the Chief Psychiatrist’s remit, all services in WA who provide therapy or support for individuals with mental illness are strongly encouraged to use the Guidelines to improve sexual safety within their agency.
- Notifying alleged sexual incidents to the Chief Psychiatrist – Please refer to the Policies for Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Incidents to the Chief Psychiatrist for further information about notifying alleged sexual incidents.
- Responding to allegations of sexual assault – Please refer to the Department of Health 2012 Guideline ‘Responding to an allegation of sexual assault disclosed within a public mental health service‘.