Mental Health Act 1983

An overview of your rights under the Mental Health Act. Includes FAQs, explanations of legal terms and links to further information and support.

Your stories

How to help someone who's been sectioned

Harriet from our information team shares ways to help someone who's been detained under the Mental Health Act.

Mind Info team
Posted on 07/03/2017

How the Mind Legal Line helped me

Susan blogs about how the Mind Legal Line helped her when her mother developed psychosis and was sectioned.

Susan
Posted on 21/04/2015

The night I spent in a cell

Claire blogs about why a police cell was the last place she needed to be during a mental health crisis.

Posted on 27/11/2014

Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides brief answers to the most common questions you may have about your rights under the Mental Health Act, and lets you know where you can find more detailed information on our website.

Can I be made to stay in hospital against my will?

In certain circumstances you can be made to go to hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act, even if you don't want to. There are many terms you might hear used to describe this, including:

  • compulsory admission to hospital
  • detention or involuntary detention
  • being a formal patient
  • being sectioned

Before you can be lawfully sectioned, you will need to be assessed by a team of health professionals, to make sure that it is necessary.

To find out more about when it may be legal to section you, what different sections mean and what your rights are when in hospital, see our legal pages on:

I am an informal patient, can I still be sectioned?

If you are in hospital as an informal patient (also known as voluntary patient), you are free to leave the hospital or ward should you choose.

However, if the health professional in charge of your treatment thinks it is necessary, they can make a report to the hospital managers that an application to keep you in hospital ‘ought to be made’ under section 5 of the Act. When these powers are used:

  • you are no longer free to leave and
  • you will need to remain in hospital for assessment to see if you need to be detained under section 2 or section 3.

Before you can be lawfully sectioned, you will need to be assessed by a team of health professionals, to make sure that it is necessary.

To find out more about when it may be legal to section you, what different sections mean and what your rights are when in hospital, see our legal pages on:

Can the police be involved in my detention?

Yes, the police may be involved if:

  • you are suspected of committing an offence, or
  • they need to take you to a place of safety under sections 135 or 136

To find out more about when and how the police can become involved in each of these instances, see our legal pages on:

What role can the courts play in my detention?

If you are going to the criminal court to be tried for committing a crime and the court receives reports from a health professional that you are unwell enough, it can order you to be detained in hospital:

  • while you are awaiting trial, and/or
  • as part of your sentence

To find out more about what sections apply here and how this process works, see our legal pages on:

Can I be given treatment against my wishes?

A medical professional should always seek your informed consent before giving you treatment for your physical or mental health.

However, the Mental Health Act says that in some circumstances, you can receive treatment from medical professionals for your mental disorder without your consent. This can happen when you are detained under certain sections of the Act.

The Mental Health Act only authorises treatment for mental disorder, so you couldn't be given treatment without your consent for a physical illness under the Act, unless the physical problem is a symptom or underlying cause of a mental disorder.

To find out more about when it's legal to treat you against your wishes, see our legal pages on:

What are my rights?

You still have certain rights when you are in hospital, as well as when you have left hospital. These may include rights to:

  • be given information about your section, and about what it means to be in hospital
  • appeal to a Mental Health Tribunal against your section
  • get help and support from an advocate
  • meet with the hospital managers
  • complain
  • correspondence and visitors, as well as some telephone access
  • vote
  • receive care once you have left hospital

To find out more about the rights you have under the Mental Health Act, see our legal page on:

Do my family members have any rights?

Your family members may have certain legal rights related to your sectioning. For example, your family member might be your nearest relative (NR). Your nearest relative has certain rights and responsibilities, including a right to:

  • apply for you to be sectioned
  • receive information about your sectioning
  • discharge you if you are sectioned and apply to the Mental Health Tribunal if this is refused
  • object to your sectioning

To find out more about who can be your nearest relative and what they are able to do for you, see our legal pages on:

Is there anyone else who can support me?

In England and Wales, if you have been sectioned you have the right to receive support from an advocate, called an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA). In Wales, if you are an inpatient (even if you are a voluntary patient and not sectioned) you have the right to receive support from an advocate. An IMHA can help you do a range of things, including:

To find out more about what an IMHA can do for you and how to access one, and for information on advocacy more generally, see our legal pages on:

Can I leave hospital for short periods of time?

If you are detained in hospital you are sometimes able to leave hospital for a short period of time, even if you are still under section. This is called section 17 leave.

To find out more about taking short periods of leave from hospital while under section, see our legal pages on:

How can I end my stay in hospital?

If you have been sectioned, the Mental Health Act gives you the right to be given information on ways in which your section can end. This may also be called being ‘discharged’ from your section. You can still stay in hospital even if your section has ended. This is called being an informal patient.

If you want to be discharged and you are under sections 2 or 3, you can:

You could be discharged from hospital onto a community treatment order (CTO). This means you won't have to stay in hospital but there might be some conditions to this, for example you may have to live in a certain place or you might have to go somewhere for medical treatment.

To find out more about being discharged from hospital, see our legal pages on:                                                                                             

To find out more about CTOs, see our legal pages on:

Am I entitled to any care when I leave hospital?

You may have a right to free aftercare under section 117 of the Mental Health Act once you have left hospital. This is the help you can receive for free in the community, including healthcare, social care and supported accommodation. You can only get this if you have been on certain sections, for example section 3.

To find out more about what care you're entitled to when you leave hospital, see our legal pages on:


This information was published in November 2018. We will revise it in 2020.


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