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


If you are sent to hospital for treatment of your mental health problems under a section of the Mental Health Act 1983, you or someone who is caring for you may have questions about your rights.

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The UK Government is changing the Mental Health Act.

Making sense of sectioning

Watch this video for a quick summary of what sectioning means:

Quick facts

  • 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

This information was published in July 2020. We will revise it in 2023.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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