Mental Health Act 1983
Explains what the Mental Health Act is, what it covers and what your rights are. Also includes links to further legal information and support.
The Mental Health Act 1983 is the law in England and Wales which was updated in 2007. It tells people with mental health problems what their rights are regarding:
- Assessment and treatment in hospital
- Treatment in the community
- Pathways into hospital, which can be civil or criminal
Many people who receive inpatient treatment on psychiatric wards have agreed to go into hospital as informal patients, also known as voluntary patients. But over half are in hospital without their agreement as formal patients. This is because they have been detained under the Mental Health Act, also known as being sectioned.
If you're a formal patient you lose certain rights, including the right to leave hospital freely, so if you're in this situation it's really important to know your rights under the Mental Health Act.
The Mental Health Act is divided up into lots of different sections. These contain information on your rights when you're:
- Detained in hospital against your wishes – see our pages on sectioning
- Detained in hospital and also part of the criminal justice system – see our pages on the courts and mental health, police and mental health
- Offered treatment while detained – see our pages on consent to treatment
- Leaving hospital, including having your section lifted and care planning – see our pages on leaving hospital
- Being treated in the community, for example receiving section 117 aftercare or on a community treatment order (CTO) – see our pages on health and social care rights
It also covers your family's rights when you're detained – see our pages on the nearest relative.
For more information see our page on Mental Health Act FAQs.
You still have certain rights when you're in hospital, and when you've left hospital. These usually include rights to:
- Have information about your section and what it means to be in hospital
- Appeal to a Mental Health Tribunal against your section
- Get support from an advocate
- Meet with the hospital managers
- Make a complaint
- Vote in elections
- Write to people and have visitors, as well as some telephone access
- Receive care after you've left hospital
As a person with a mental health problem living in England or Wales, these are some other key pieces of legislation which set out some of your rights and protect you from discrimination:
- Equality Act 2010
- Mental Capacity Act 2005
- Care Act 2014 (applies to England)
- Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 (applies to Wales)
- Human Rights Act 1998
- Data Protection Act 2018
You can find more information on your rights in different situations on our other pages on your legal rights.
For further legal information you can contact:
- Mind's Legal Line
- A local Law Centre
- Civil Legal Advice (CLA)
- Citizens Advice (England) or Citizens Advice (Wales)
- A private solicitor – The Law Society website provides a list of qualified solicitors in your area
You may also be legally entitled to an advocate, someone who can help you understand your rights and make your voice heard. See our page on statutory advocacy for more information.
Care Act 2014
This is the law which sets out the local authorities’ duties in relation to assessing people’s needs and their eligibility for care and support (adult social care), including carers who need support. It applies in England only.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014
This is the law that governs social care in Wales. It sets out the local authorities’ duties in relation to assessing people’s needs and their eligibility for care and support (child and adult social care), including carers who need support.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Data Protection Act 2018
The Data Protection Act 2018 is the law that sets out how organisations must handle and process your information. It also gives you rights to access and correct personal information held about you.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This information was published in June 2022. We will revise it in 2025.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.