Getting help in a crisis - Mental Health Act
The Mental Health Act
The Mental Health Act 1983 is the law which says when someone can be admitted, kept and treated in hospital against their wishes. It is commonly known as being ‘sectioned’ or being detained under the Mental Health Act. It only happens if the person is very unwell or is putting their own safety or someone else’s at risk. It is sometimes used in crisis situations.
How do I use the Mental Health Act?
You might feel that your needs to be taken to hospital under the Mental Health Act. If so, you need to contact the community mental health team (CMHT) or local adult social care team. You must ask to speak to a duty Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP). The AMHP has had specialist training on the Mental Health Act. They are usually a mental health professional such as a social worker, psychologist or nurse.
If they agree to carry out an assessment, the AMHP and two doctors must agree that your relative needs to be admitted to hospital. They would need to be sure that they meet the criteria for this, which is set out in the Mental Health Act.
Anyone can ask for a Mental Health Act assessment. However, the ‘nearest relative’ has certain rights under the act. The nearest relative is not the same as the next of kin. There are rules in the Mental Health Act that say who the nearest relative is.
You can find out more about ‘nearest relative’ here.
The nearest relative can ask for an assessment to decide if their relative should be detained under the Mental Health Act. They can use this right more than once if they need to. If the AMHP decides that admission to hospital is not necessary, they must give their reasons in writing to the nearest relative.
Sometimes the team carrying out the assessment will ask the police to attend to make sure everyone is safe.
Should I use the Mental Health Act?
Most people would only use the Mental Health Act as a last resort. You may decide that this is the only option to get your relative help. You might find that talking to your relative about their options first might be helpful. For example, they might agree that they need to go into hospital. This is known as being a ‘voluntary’ patient (meaning they would not be detained under the Mental Health Act.
Using the Mental Health Act could have a negative effect on your future relationship. It can also be a stressful experience. However, under certain circumstances it may be the best thing to do and get your relative the help they need.
You can find out more about the ‘Nearest Relative’ here.
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Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
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