The Mental Health Act 1983 sets out the rights of people with a mental health disorder and how they can be treated.

It sets out how their rights relating to:

  • Assessment and treatment in hospital
  • Treatment in the community
  • Pathways into hospital, which can be civil or criminal.

Although many people who receive inpatient treatment on psychiatric wards have agreed to go into hospital on an informal basis (also known as voluntary patients), others are in hospital, without their agreement, as formal patients. This is because they’ve been detained under the Mental Health Act (often called being sectioned).

Being detained under the Mental Health Act

Being detained under the Mental Health Act (also known as being sectioned) means that you have to stay in hospital for assessment or treatment. This happens when a person has been assessed by a team of health professionals to make sure that it’s necessary. This usually happens because that person is a danger to themselves or other people and can’t make decisions about their own treatment.

Find out more about what being sectioned means on the MIND website

It's important for you to know what happens to you when you're detained, what your rights are and where you can seek help.

You can find out more about the Mental Health Act on the NHS website

You can find helpful information on the Mind website  

Download a range of Easy Read booklets about the Mental Health Act on the NHS website

These booklets tell you about:

  • Detention (also called being sectioned)
  • Questions to ask when you’re detained
  • Leaving the ward when you’re detained
  • Information you must be given
  • Making decisions in advance so people know what you want
  • Whether people can visit you in hospital.

If you’re detained at the Trust under the Mental Health Act, you’ll:

  • Have all your rights explained very carefully by our staff and get the information in writing
  • Be told about your right to an independent mental health advocate.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) visits our wards without giving advance notice so that they can talk to patients and staff and make sure that we’re fully respecting patients’ rights.

You can apply to the mental health tribunal if you’re detained (or sectioned) as a patient in a psychiatric hospital and want to be discharged. Some people can also apply on a patient’s behalf.

Learn more about the Mental Health Tribunal on the government website

There are a number of organisations that offer legal assistance and advice on a range of issues, including detainment under the Mental Health Act.  


Mind is a charity thar provides legal information and general advice about on mental health law, including mental capacity, community care, human rights and discrimination and equality related to mental health issues.
Visit Mind

Coram Children’s Legal Centre

The Coram Children’s Legal Centre offers free, independent legal advice for children, parents and carers. Visit the website

Disability Law Service

Disability Law Service provides information, advice and assistance to those with disabilities and their carers. Free Legal Advice Line: 0207 791 9800
Visit the Disability Law Service


LawWorks is a charity that provides free legal help to individuals and community groups who can’t access legal aid.
Visit LawWorks