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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?

6. What treatment can I be given?

7. Who can discharge me from hospital?

8. What are my rights in hospital?

You have a right to certain information about why you are being detained in hospital. As soon as possible after you have been detained, the hospital should write and tell you:

  • what section you are detained under (see 'When can I be detained in hospital?');
  • what this kind of detention means; and
  • about your right to apply to a mental health review tribunal.

You should also be given information about:

  • how and when you can be given treatment without your agreement;
  • why you are being detained, and how you can be discharged from hospital;
  • applying to a mental health review tribunal; and
  • the Mental Health Act Commission (for example, your right to meet the commissioners when they visit the hospital).

What does the Mental Health Act Commission do?
The Mental Health Act Commission visits hospitals where people are detained under the Mental Health Act and checks that their detention is lawful and that they are being cared for properly.

If you are concerned about your care and treatment, you can speak to the Commission (in private) when they visit the hospital, or you can write to them (see 'Further help').

The Commission can look at complaints about your care and treatment. However, if you want to complain, you must normally use the hospital's own complaints procedure first, and take your complaint to the Commission only if you are unhappy with the hospital's response. For more about making a complaint, see 'What if I am unhappy with my care and treatment?'.

Can I see my medical records?
In most cases you have the right to see your records. However, in some situations a doctor or hospital won't show you your records (for example, if your doctor believes that giving you certain information could seriously harm your physical or mental health). If you are told that you cannot see your records and you don't agree, you will need to get expert legal advice (see 'Further help').

Can my friends and family visit me?
You have the right to visits from your friends and family. If the hospital or the doctor doesn't think you should see your family and wants to stop you, they must have a very good reason that is to do with your health or safety. If you are stopped from having visits, this decision should be recorded. The record should be made available to the Mental Health Act Commission.

Am I allowed to vote?
If you are detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act, you can still vote (as long as you are registered to vote) but you will have to vote by postal or proxy vote.

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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