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22 Mental Health

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1. Introduction

2. What is the Mental Health Act for?

3. Who decides if I should be detained in hospital?

4. When can I be detained in hospital?

5. When can I be given compulsory treatment?

If you are detained under section 2 or 3 of the Mental Health Act, 'compulsory treatment powers' will apply. This means your responsible medical officer can treat you without your agreement. These compulsory treatment powers don't apply if you are:

Compulsory treatment powers under the Mental Health Act are only for treating a mental disorder. They are not for any other problem you may have. If doctors want to give you treatment for something not covered by the Mental Health Act, they can give it to you only if:

  • you agree to it; or
  • you are unable to agree to it, you didn't previously refuse it, and the treatment is 'in your best interests'. (See 'When am I judged unable to make a decision about treatment?')

If I am detained, does it mean I won't be asked whether I want a certain treatment?
You should always be asked about any treatment, whether or not you are detained under the Mental Health Act. Doctors and anyone else who is treating you should always first ask you whether you agree to a treatment, even if they have the power to treat you without your agreement.

How can I decide whether to agree to have a treatment?
You should always be told in plain language:

  • what the treatment is;
  • why you should have it;
  • about any possible side effects;
  • how likely it will be to help you;
  • about any other types of treatment you could have instead; and
  • what could happen if you don't have the treatment.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Your doctor should ask you if you have any questions, and must answer them fully and honestly. You can also change your mind about agreeing to treatment if you want to.

6. What treatment can I be given?

7. Who can discharge me from hospital?

8. What are my rights in hospital?

9. What if I am unhappy with my care and treatment?

10. Will I get help when I leave hospital?

11. What powers do the police have against people with mental health problems?

12. Mental health and The Human Rights Act

13. Terms used in mental health law

14. Further help

15. About this leaflet







This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Camilla Parker, and independent consultant specialising in mental health law and policy.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: November 2019




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