Information for young people to help you understand what rights are, what rights you have for your mental health and what to do if you feel like your rights aren't being listened to.
We all have rights.
When we talk about rights, we mean:
It's important to understand what your rights are so you can make sure you're being treated fairly, and that you have the protection and support you need.
On this page we have information on:
We all share lots of the same rights, but we also have some different rights depending on our age and our needs. You might not realise it, but rights are a part of your everyday life.
These are just some of the rights you have:
If you live in England – you can find out more about the different rights you might have on the Law Stuff website.
If you live in Wales – you can find out more on The Children's Legal Centre website.
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:
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.
To find out more about your right to confidentiality, you can visit the Anna Freud website.
If you have a disability or find learning at school difficult because of your mental health, you might have rights to extra support, like:
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:
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.
If you need to go into hospital for your mental health, there are rights about:
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.
Visit the Young Minds website for more information and for real life stories about your rights in hospital.
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:
To find out more, see our section on what if my rights are being ignored.
Rights come from lots of different places.
Understanding where they come from can help you to find out what to do if they're being ignored.
Laws – most of our laws come from the UK and Welsh Government. These say what people in the UK can and can't do and what support they should have. They also say what people or organisations have responsibilities for us.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (known as the UNCRC) – this is a set of standards we follow in the UK that lists the rights that every child should have. These include the right to relax and play, to express yourself freely and to have an education. To find out more about the UNCRC, you could read a guide that Unicef has put together.
Policies and guidelines – all professionals like your doctor, child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) team, teachers and social workers, follow strict sets of rules. These are not laws but say how professionals should act and how you they should treat you.
You might not be sure whether you have a right to something, such as using your phone when you're staying in hospital.
Here's a few of the ways you can find out:
Ask 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, your doctor's surgery, or your local CAMHS services.
Look for information online. There are lots of websites where you can find information about your rights.
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 or teacher. They can talk things through with you and help you decide what to do next.
Get support from an advocate – advocates 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.
Talk to the organisation – tell them what your right is and how what they've done has affected you. Your parents or 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 or carer can also make the complaint for you if you want them to.
If you've tried these things and nothing has helped, you might want to speak to a solicitor. They can talk you through your options and tell you whether you or your family could take legal action. Visit the Law Society website for information about finding a solicitor.
This information was published in May 2020. We will revise it in 2022.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.