What rights do I have for my mental health?
You have lots of rights to do with your mental health.
It's important to understand your rights in mental health settings so that you can make sure you're properly supported and being treated fairly.
Jump to page information on:
- How can I find out if I have a right to something?
- Your right to confidentiality
- Your right to support in education
- Your right to be involved in decisions about you
- Your right to not be discriminated against
- Your rights when going into hospital
- Your right to complain
- What if my rights are being ignored?
What do we mean by rights?
Find a summary of what rights are and what they might mean to you.
Knowing where laws come from, and that something is a law, makes it seem important.
You might not be sure whether you have a right to something, like using your phone when you're staying in hospital for mental health.
If you can't find the information you need on this page, you can find out by:
- Asking the service or organisation if they have a policy about the things that they provide, or responsibilities they have towards you. This might be your school, doctor's surgery, or local CAMHS.
- Looking for information online. There are lots of websites where you can find information about your rights.
If you want to look online, some options include:
- Childline's website for general information about rights.
- Law Stuff website for information on a range of rights-based topics for young people in England. It also offers a service where you can send them your question and they will email you back.
- Children's Legal Centre for information on a range of rights based topics for children and young people in Wales.
- Anna Freud for information on your rights about treatment options, parental consent and sectioning.
All personal information that professionals hold about you should be kept private.
This means if you talk to health professionals, schools, social workers, advocates or employers about your mental health, it should stay between you and them, unless they tell you differently.
Sometimes your information might be shared:
- So you get a good level of care. For example, your doctor will write down what you tell them in your appointment. Other doctors who work at the same place will be able to see these notes, so if you have an appointment with a different doctor, you won't need to explain your story again.
- So they can refer you to another service, like a specialist doctor. They should tell you if they're going to do this.
- If they're worried that you or someone else could be in danger. Normally, they should tell you that they're going to do this, unless telling you would put someone else in danger.
If you're worried about confidentiality, you can always bring it up with the professional you're speaking to and they should tell you about the rules they have to follow.
You also have a right to see your personal information, like what your doctor has written on your medical notes.
Find out more about your right to confidentiality by understanding what it means.
If you have a disability or find learning at school difficult because of your mental health, you might have rights to extra support, like:
- A safe place to go at lunch time and between lessons
- Extra help from a teacher or assistant
- Extra time to take exams or tests
If you think you would find this useful or you want to find out more, you can talk to your school or college to find out what support is available.
You should always be involved in decisions about you, like:
- The treatment and support you get
- Who knows about your mental health problem
- The support you get at school
Your views and opinions should be listened to by the people involved in your care, support and education.
If you have a mental health problem, you might have additional rights to stop you from being discriminated against. This means people shouldn't treat you unfairly because of your mental health.
This could be at school, work, or when you're receiving health or social care.
Knowing what your rights are is really important so you can tell someone if you're not getting what you should be.
If you need to go into hospital for your mental health, you have certain rights around:
- Your decision to go in and leave
- How you're treated when you stay there
- Continuing with your education
- Being able to talk to your family
- The types of treatment you have
Sometimes, you might not be able to make the decision about whether you go into hospital. This is called sectioning.
Sectioning is where you are kept in hospital to keep yourself or someone else safe. If you're sectioned, your rights might be different but your views and thoughts should still be listened to.
Hospitals and sectioning
Find out more about what you might experience when you go into hospital for mental health.
If you're unhappy with the support or treatment you're getting for your mental health, you have the right to complain. For example, if:
Sometimes things go wrong and we don't get the things we have a right to. This can be really difficult, but there are things you can do, like:
- Talk to a trusted adult like your parent, carer, guardian or teacher. They can talk things through with you and help you decide what to do next.
- Talk to the organisation. Tell them what your right is and how what they've done has affected you. Your parents, carers, guardians or an advocate can help you do this.
- Make a complaint. Every organisation or service should have a complaints process. You can ask them to talk you through this process and how to make your complaint. Your parent or advocate can help you do this. Your parent, carer or guardian can also make the complaint for you if you want them to.
- Get support from an advocate. These are people who can help you understand your rights, go to meetings with you, help get your voice heard and help you get the support you deserve. This could be a trusted friend or family member or it could be a professional advocate.
Where can I find a professional advocate?
To find an advocate, it might help to ask your doctor if they know any local advocacy services:
- If you live in England – you could also contact VoiceAbility or POhWER. These charity organisations offer free advocacy services.
- If you live in Wales – you could also contact the National Youth Advocacy Service.
Find more information on our page about advocacy for young people.
This means going to a hospital, clinic, or another service to get treatment and support for your mental health.
If you’re admitted to hospital, you might go in as:
- an outpatient (for an appointment)
- a day patient (you’ll be there for most of the day but not overnight)
- or as an inpatient (staying in hospital for at least one night).
Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Being sectioned means that you’re kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983.
There are different types of sections, each with different rules to keep you safe and give you treatment.
The length of time that you can be kept in hospital depends on which section you are on.
See our page on being sectioned for more information.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
This is a document that sets out how an organisation will act in certain situations. For example, a transition policy should explain how an organisation will manage a young person leaving their services.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
This is when you agree to something, such as going into hospital or having treatment.
You can’t consent to something unless you are competent to (if you’re 15 or below), or you have capacity (if you’re 16 or above).
Being competent or having capacity means that you understand what you’re consenting to and what might happen if you say yes or no to it.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Discrimination is when someone treats you differently or unfairly because of:
- Your age
- Your disability
- Your gender
- Your gender identity
- Your sexuality
- Your relationship status
- Your religion or beliefs
- Your race, skin colour or where you were born
- Being pregnant or having a child
In the UK, a law called the Equality Act protects you from discrimination.
The Equality Act says you have a disability if you have a physical or mental health problem that has a substantial, negative, and long-term effect on your day-to-day life.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
These are services that support young people with their mental health.
You might see them called different names sometimes, but they offer the same type of services for young people:
- In Wales, they're called Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (SCAMHS)
- In England or Wales, you might also hear them called Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS)
Find out more in our CAMHS information hub.
This information was published in May 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
The quotes on this page are from young people we spoke to while making this information. They've given us their consent to use their quotes in our information. The words, experiences and opinions in the quotes are not related to the young people shown in any of the photographs we use.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.