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Your mental health rights – for 11-18 year olds

Information for young people on what rights you have for your mental health and what to do if you feel like your rights are being ignored.

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.

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.

How can I find out if I have a right to something?

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.

Your right to confidentiality

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.

Understanding confidentiality

Find out more about your right to confidentiality by understanding what it means.

Your right to support in education

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.

Your right to be involved in decisions about you

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.

Your right to not be discriminated against

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.

Your rights when going into hospital

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.

Your right to complain

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:

  • You're not getting the treatment or support you want
  • You feel like you're not being treated the way you should by a professional
  • You don't agree with your diagnosis

What if my rights are being ignored?

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:

Find more information on our page about advocacy for young people.

person with fist in the air white illustration

If you've tried all these things and nothing has helped, you might want to speak to a solicitor.

A solicitor can talk you through your options and tell you whether you or your family could take legal action. For information about finding a solicitor, visit the Law Society website.

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.

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