An overview of your rights under the Mental Health Act. Includes FAQs, explanations of legal terms and links to further information and support.
The Mental Health Act (MHA) 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:
Many people who receive inpatient treatment on psychiatric wards have agreed to go into hospital as informal patients (also known as voluntary patients). However, over half are in hospital without their agreement as formal patients. This is because they have been detained under the Mental Health Act (often called being sectioned).
If you are 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:
(See our page of Mental Health Act FAQs for more information.)
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:
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:
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.)
If you're looking for information in an accessible format for people with learning disabilities, you can find a series of Easy Read factsheets on your rights under the Mental Health Act on the NHS Choices website.
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.See our full list of legal terms.
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.See our full list of legal terms.
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, correct and erase personal information held about you.See our full list of legal terms.
This information was published in November 2018. We will revise it in 2020.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.