What is a Mental Health Advance Directive?

A Mental Health Advance Directive is a document that allows you to make your choices known regarding mental health treatment in the event that your mental illness makes you unable to make decisions. In effect, you are making decisions about treatment before the time that you will need it. This allows you to make more informed decisions and to make your wishes clearly known. A new law was passed in Pennsylvania, effective January 28, 2005, that makes it possible for you to use a Mental Health Advance Directive. Many decisions may need to be made for you if you have a mental health crisis or are involuntarily committed and become unable to make treatment decisions. For example, the choice of hospital, types of treatment, and who should be notified are decisions that may be made for you. Unfortunately, at the time of crisis, you may not be able to make your wishes known, and therefore you may end up with others making decisions that you would not make. One way to be sure that your doctor, relatives, and friends understand your feelings is to prepare a Mental Health Advance Directive before you become unable to make decisions. Pennsylvania law allows you to make a Mental Health Advance Directive that is a declaration, a power of attorney, or a combination of both.