Explains the rights that you have if you are sectioned and detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983.
Making sense of sectioning
Watch this video for a quick summary of what sectioning means:
- Being sectioned means that you are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. You can be sectioned if your own health or safety are at risk, or to protect other people.
- There are different types of sections, each with different rules to keep you in hospital. How long you have to stay in hospital depends on which section you are kept in hospital under.
- Before you can be lawfully sectioned under one of the main detention sections, you will be assessed by a team of health professionals.
- If you are sectioned, you can be kept in hospital, stopped from leaving the ward and given treatment for your mental health problems, possibly without your consent.
- If you are sectioned, you normally have the right to get help from someone called an independent mental health advocate (IMHA). They can help you find out what rights you have while you are sectioned, and how to be discharged from hospital and get the section lifted. You also have other rights.
- If you have been sectioned and you want to challenge the decision, there are several ways of getting discharged.
- A family member called your nearest relative will have certain legal rights related to your sectioning.
- You don't have to be sectioned to get treatment in hospital – you can go to hospital the normal way and be a voluntary or informal patient.
Under 18? We have information on going into hospital as a young person, and your rights if you’re sectioned
The nearest relative is a family member who has certain responsibilities and powers if you are detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act. These include the right to information and to discharge in some situations.
The law sets out a list to decide who will be your nearest relative. This can sometimes be changed.
See our pages on the nearest relative for more information.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Being 'sectioned' means that you are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act. There are different types of sections, each with different rules to keep you in hospital. The length of time that you can be kept in hospital depends on which section you are detained under.
See our pages on sectioning for more information.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Independent mental health advocate (IMHA)
- You have a right to an IMHA if you are:
detained in hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act, but not if you are under sections 4, 5, 135 and 136
- under Mental Health Act guardianship, conditional discharge and community treatment orders (CTOs)
- discussing having certain treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
In Wales, voluntary patients can also have an IMHA.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA)
This is a law that applies to England and Wales which allows people to be detained in hospital (sectioned) if they have a mental health disorder and need treatment. You can only be kept in hospital if certain conditions are met.
See our pages on the Mental Health Act for more information.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This information was published in July 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
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