Advocacy in mental health
Explains what advocacy is and how it can help you. Gives information on different types of advocacy, including statutory advocates, what sort of situations an advocate can help you with, and how to find an advocate.
What are IMHAs in England?
In England, you have the right to an IMHA if:
- you are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, except where:
- you are "liable to be detained" – this includes:
- where you are on leave of absence from hospital
- where you are absent without leave from hospital
- where a court order or application for admission has been made in relation to you
- you are subject to a community treatment order (CTO)
- you are subject to guardianship
- you are a conditionally discharged restricted patient
- you are a voluntary/informal patient and certain treatments, including neurosurgery, are being considered for you
An IMHA can help you understand:
- your rights under the Mental Health Act 1983 and why certain decisions have been made
- the rights which other people (such as your nearest relative) have in relation to you under the Mental Health Act 1983
- the parts of the Mental Health Act 1983 which apply to you (such as the basis on which you are detained) and make you eligible for an IMHA
- any conditions or restrictions you are subject to (for example, relating to leave of absence from hospital or a CTO)
- any medical treatment that you are receiving or might be given, including:
- the reasons for that treatment or proposed treatment
- the legal basis for providing that treatment
- the safeguards and other requirements of the Mental Health Act 1983 which would apply to that treatment.
On a practical level, an IMHA can help you:
- exercise your rights under the Mental Health Act 1983
- express your views about your care and treatment
- make a complaint about your care or treatment
- enforce your rights and get what you are entitled to
- make an application to the Mental Health Tribunal
- present your views and support you at a Mental Health Tribunal hearing
- access legal advice
- by representing you and speaking on your behalf – for example at review meetings or hospital managers' hearings.
Your IMHA should be able to:
- access the ward or unit where you are staying
- meet with you in private, unless you object or it is otherwise inappropriate (for example, if you pose a risk to the IMHA's safety)
- accompany you to meetings with professionals involved in your care and treatment when you ask them to
- see any medical, social care or other records about your detention, treatment and aftercare (an IMHA can only do this with your consent, unless you lack capacity to consent)
- meet and talk to anyone who is professionally involved with your medical treatment
You can request support from an IMHA at any time after you become a qualifying patient. You can ask:
Whilst in hospital, you should have access to a telephone which you can use to contact an IMHA and talk to them in private.
Can other people ask an IMHA to visit me?
The following people can also ask an IMHA to visit you:
- your nearest relative
- an AMHP
- your responsible clinician
It is important to remember that you do not have to see an IMHA if you don't wish to and that IMHAs support patients, not nearest relatives or carers.
If you lack capacity to decide whether or not to get help from an IMHA, the hospital manager must ask an IMHA to visit you so that they can explain to you directly what help an IMHA can provide. See our legal pages on the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for more information about what lacking capacity means and what your rights are.
This is where someone called a 'guardian' is appointed instead of being sectioned and kept in hospital. Your guardian could be a person or a local authority.
You can only be placed under guardianship if it's necessary for your welfare or to protect other people. Your guardian has the power to make certain decisions about you and to make conditions that you will be asked to keep to, such as where you live.
Guardianship lasts for up to six months and can be renewed: initially for a further six months, and then for a year at a time. You can appeal to the Mental Health Tribunal once in each of these periods.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This is where you are discharged from hospital but will have to follow some conditions, such as living at a particular place or meeting healthcare professionals. If you break these conditions, you can be recalled to hospital.
You can only be put under a conditional discharge if you have been:
- sectioned by a court under certain sections of the Mental Health Act and have been charged with a crime and you are a restricted patient under a restriction order, or
- transferred to hospital from prison under the Mental Health Act and you are a restricted patient under a restriction direction.
Responsible clinician (RC)
Certain decisions, such as applying for someone who is sectioned to go onto a community treatment order (CTO), can only be taken by the responsible clinician.
All responsible clinicians must be approved clinicians. They do not have to be a doctor, but in practice many of them are.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Approved mental health professional (AMHP)
AMHPs are mental health professionals who have been approved by a local social services authority to carry out duties under the Mental Health Act. They are responsible for coordinating your assessment and admission to hospital if you are sectioned.
They may be:
- social workers
- occupational therapists
This information was published in October 2017.
This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published.
References and bibliography available on request.
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