Explains the rights that you have if you are sectioned and detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. Applies to England and Wales.

Your stories

Sectioned sick and bored

Sometimes, boredom is a real problem when you're staying in hospital.

Posted on 29/07/2014

A first for everything: psychosis, mania, depression and being sectioned

Jamie blogs about her experiences and the importance of her family’s support.

Posted on 03/10/2014

My experience of bipolar disorder and being sectioned

In part one of his blog, Jonny talks about his experience of bipolar disorder and being sectioned.

Posted on 24/03/2016

How can I challenge the decision to keep me in hospital under section?

If may not be possible to challenge the health professionals' opinion during the time that you are being sectioned. But once you have been sectioned and are in hospital, there are several ways of getting discharged:

  • Ask your responsible clinician to discharge you. Your responsible clinician must do this if the legal reasons for sectioning you no longer apply. This could be, for example, because your mental health has improved so that you no longer need to be kept in hospital for assessment or treatment.
  • Ask your hospital managers to consider discharging you. You can do this by asking for a meeting with the hospital managers.
  • Ask your nearest relative to discharge you by giving the hospital managers at least 72 hours’ notice in writing. If your responsible clinician does not object to you going home, you can go home once the 72 hours have passed.

    If your responsible clinician does object, they can make a report to the hospital managers before the 72 hours are up, that in their view, you would act in a way that would be dangerous to yourself or others.
  • Apply to the Mental Health Tribunal to be discharged. The Mental Health Tribunal cannot look at the reasons why you were sectioned in the first place - it will only look at how you are now and whether you should still be under section or discharged.

    You will be able to get legal aid to pay for a solicitor to help you with your appeal, and during the hearing. Your savings or property will not have to be assessed. It is your right to have legal aid for the Tribunal, no matter what money you have coming in or if you own a house or flat.

    Even if you do not get discharged this time, your mental health solicitor can ask your responsible clinician questions about why you were sectioned in the first place, how he or she views your progress and how your treatment is going.
    If you are under a section 2, you should apply to the Tribunal within 14 days of being sectioned.

    If you are under a section 3, you can apply any time within the 6 months of your section (or within the 12 months of your section if it has been renewed more than once). 

Getting legal advice

If you have serious concerns about the way you were assessed or sectioned, and feel that the legal rules and procedures were not followed properly, you should get legal advice about this from your mental health solicitor. Your solicitor will be able to check your sectioning papers and your medical records.

Your solicitor will have to be an approved solicitor experienced in mental health work and qualified to represent you at the Tribunal. 

If you want to get legal advice, you can:

  • get in touch with the Law Society for details of a suitable solicitor
  • ask the hospital ward staff if they have a list of suitable local solicitors
  • ask your IMHA if they can help and support you in choosing one


This information was published in January 2015. We will revise it in 2017.

Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z


Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> Find out more

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today