Mental Health Act - being admitted to a psychiatric hospital

Not all admissions to psychiatric hospital require the use of the Mental Health Act. Some people are admitted informally, and others maybe supported at home.

The Mental Health Act covers the assessment, treatment, and rights of people with a mental disorder.

Mental Health Act assessments

There are many different situations when a Mental Health Act assessment may be requested.

Three professionals are required to carry out a Mental Health Act assessment, these are:

  • an approved mental health professional
  • two approved doctors.

A Mental Health Act Assessment can be carried out anywhere that is deemed a safe place.

Being detained, or 'sectioned' under the Mental Health Act

Being ‘sectioned’ is the term that is often used when someone is detained under the Mental Health Act. The Mental Health Act is the law which can allow someone to be admitted, detained and treated in hospital against their wishes.

It can be a very distressing experience for the person, and their family and friends, and will generally only be used if all other options have been considered. For instance looking at whether support can be provided in the community or if someone would agree to go into hospital voluntarily.

To be detained under the mental health act, the person:

  • must be suffering from a mental disorder of a nature or degree which warrants detention in a hospital for assessment or treatment
  • ought to be detained in the interests of their own health and safety or the protection of others.

Mental disorder is a broad term that includes conditions like schizophrenia, depression, including self-harm and/or suicidal intent, bipolar disorder, or various types of personality disorder, as well as learning disabilities, autism, dementia and brain injury.

Being detained is dependent on risks to the person themself and to others, and if the person has capacity to understand and agree to any treatment or admission.

Independent Mental Health Advocates

People who are admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act are entitled to help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA). The advocate is a person who is independent of the hospital and is employed to speak on your behalf.

They can help you discuss your feelings about your care and what support you may need in the future. For more information about independent mental health advocacy go to the Advocacy People website.

Further information

There is guidance about the Mental Health Act on the NHS website and there is also an easy read guide to the Mental Health Act.

You can also get information on the Mind website about the Mental Health Act and sectioning.

You can find out about the mental health support available in the community.