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:
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:
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:
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.
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
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
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.
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