Detention under the Mental Health Act  

Can I be kept in a psychiatric hospital? 

Anyone aged eighteen or over may be detained in a psychiatric hospital if that person has one of the mental disorders listed in Mental Health Act 1983. However, this disorder requires an assessment or treatment in a hospital and the person should be believed to be a danger to her or himself or to others.

How an application is made?

An application to detain someone against their will must either be made by a doctor, nurse or social worker specialising in the mental illness. This application can also be made by the person’s closest relative as defined by the Mental Health Act. In addition, two doctors must confirm in writing that the detention is valid.

How long someone can be detained?

This depends on which section of the Mental Health Act that is used. Under Section 2, the person is sectioned (admitted) for an assessment (with treatment, if necessary) and can be detained up to twenty-eight days.

Other sections commonly used are Section 3 (the person is sectioned for immediate treatment and can be detained for up to six months, Section 4 (an emergency admission for up to seventy-two hours initially, and Section 5 (a ‘voluntary patient’) has asked to be sectioned and can be detained for up to seventy-two hours.  The use of a Section 5 order should be restricted to times when it is not possible to use Sections 2,3, or 4.

What are the patients’ rights?

Patients held under the Mental Health Act can ask for another doctor to review the detention and decide whether it is appropriate, and she or he can appeal to an independent mental health review tribunal to assess whether they should be kept in hospital or not. The hospital should provide application forms for a review, and staff or social workers should help the applicant to complete one.

What happens after someone is found to be behaving strange?

  • The first step is to contact the person’s GP who may then be able to arrange for a ‘mental health assessment’ to be carried out. Alternatively, the social service department of the local council could also be contacted. They have a duty to respond.

  • The assessment could lead to the patient being admitted to a psychiatric hospital against her or his will under the Mental Health Act 1983. This would happen if the patient is judged to be suffering from a mental disorder requiring further assessment or treatment, and admission is thought to be necessary in the interest of the patient’s own health and safety, or to protect others.

  • If the patient is admitted against her or his own will, it would probably be under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. If the patient’s behaviour poses an immediate threat, an emergency application under Section 4 can be made for admission for up to seventy-two hours.

  • Further, if someone who appears to be mentally disordered is behaving dangerously, the police have powers to remove that person to a ‘place of safety’ (usually, a psychiatric hospital) and, if necessary get a court order to break into a house to do so.