Explains the rights that you have if you are sectioned and detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. Applies to England and Wales.

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If you are sent to hospital for treatment of your mental health problems under a section of the Mental Health Act 1983, you or someone who is caring for you may have questions about your rights. 

Quick facts

  • Being sectioned means that you are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. You can be sectioned if your own health or safety are at risk, or to protect other people.
  • If you are sectioned, you can be kept in hospital, stopped from leaving the ward and given treatment for your mental health problems, possibly without your consent.
  • If you are sectioned, you normally have the right to get help from someone called an independent mental health advocate (IMHA). They can help you find out what rights you have while you are sectioned, and how to be discharged from hospital and get the section lifted. You also have other rights.
  • If you have been sectioned and you want to challenge the decision, there are several ways of getting discharged.
  • You don’t have to be sectioned to get treatment in hospital – you can go to hospital the normal way and be a voluntary or informal patient.

Watch this video for a quick summary of what sectioning means. 

Please note

  • This guide only covers sectioning from the point of view of a person with a mental health problem. 
  • This guide applies to England and Wales.
  • This guide contains general legal information, not legal advice. We recommend you get advice from a specialist legal adviser or solicitor who will help you with your individual situation and needs. See Useful contacts for more information.


This information was published in January 2015. We will revise it in 2017.

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