The Napthine government faces a backlash over contentious laws allowing electric shock therapy to be used on children with severe depression and other mental illnesses.

With Parliament resuming this week, the Coalition is under pressure to wind back a bill that allows psychiatrists to continue using electroconvulsive therapy on people under 13, despite calls to ban it on children.

Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge said the decision not to outlaw ECT was based on clinical advice suggesting it ''may be the most appropriate treatment in a limited number of circumstances''.

The government also argues the treatment - which involves inducing seizures by delivering an electric current through the brain - is rarely used on minors, and appropriate safeguards have been put in place.

''It is for this reason the government has not prohibited its use, but will require any ECT for people under 18 years of age to be approved by the Mental Health Tribunal,'' Ms Wooldridge said.

Legal experts have written to the minister saying they have ''significant concerns'' her Mental Health Bill could undermine ''the modern ethos that people with mental illness should not be treated in an inferior manner to people who suffer physical illness''.

In the letter, Federation of Community Legal Centres senior policy adviser Chris Atmore questioned why the bill allowed ECT to be performed on children, despite the fact the World Health Organisation has said it should never be performed on minors. Some are worried about other aspects of the legislation, which also:

■ Removes an important power to review treatment plans for patients.

■ Contains a clause allowing psychiatrists to treat a person against their wishes in some cases.

■ Scraps penalties for mental health staff to provide assistance to watchdogs from the Office of the Public Advocate.

''People experiencing mental illness are extraordinarily vulnerable, so it is absolutely critical to ensure their rights are upheld,'' said Mental Health Legal Centre spokeswoman Charlotte Jones.

Electroconvulsive therapy is commonly prescribed for severe depression but may also be used for other serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and extreme mania. Proponents say the treatment has been negatively portrayed despite advances in technology and safety.

Views on its effectiveness, however, are mixed.

In drafting the legislation, the government relied on a letter from David Castle, chairman of the Victorian branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, who wrote that banning ''this form of treatment for young people would remove a potentially life-saving form of therapy and certainly one that can bring relief of substantial mental anguish and suffering''.

Other research, such as a recent study from the University of Auckland, suggests ECT could cause brain damage and long-term memory loss.

Opposition mental health spokesman Gavin Jennings said Labor wanted the legislation reviewed in two years to see if there had been any adverse effects or a spike in the number of treatments. ''If it looks bad, then we should stop it,'' he said.

Government figures suggest that in 2012-13, only 13 ECT treatments out of 12,871 administered in public mental health services were received by people under 18.

For help or information visit beyondblue.org.au, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131 114.