Mental capacity and mental illness
Mental capacity means you have ability to make your own decisions. If you lose mental capacity the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) protects you and your rights. You may lose mental capacity because of your mental illness. This section explains mental capacity and how the MCA works.
- The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) is the law that protects you if you are not able to make decisions.
- You may lack mental capacity if you can’t:
- understand information about a decision,
- remember this information,
- use this information to make a decision, or
- communicate your decision.
- You may only lack mental capacity for a short period of time.
- Being unwell or having a mental illness does not mean you lack mental capacity. Most people with a mental illness do not lack mental capacity.
- Being held under the Mental Health Act does not mean that you lack mental capacity.
- Making a bad decision doesn’t mean that you lack mental capacity.
- A health professional will assess if you have mental capacity.
- The MCA sets out who can make decisions for you if you lack capacity.
- You can make an advance statement or advance decision about your wishes for treatment and care in case you lose capacity in the future.
- If someone makes decisions for you because you lack capacity, they need to be in your ‘best interests’.
This section covers:
- What is mental capacity?
- What is the Mental Capacity Act (MCA)?
- How is mental capacity assessed?
- I’m worried that I might lose my mental capacity in the future. What can I do?
- How are decisions made for me if I lack mental capacity?
- I don’t agree that I lack capacity to make a decision. What can I do?
- I don’t agree with a decision that is being made about the person I care for. What can I do?
- Who are the Court of Protection and the Office of the Public Guardian?
- What else should I know about the Mental Capacity Act?
- I am a carer. Am I legally protected if I make best interests decision for someone?
- What is the difference between the Mental Capacity Act and the Mental Health Act?
These pages are created by Rethink Mental Illness' Advice Service in accordance with the Information Standard. Last reviewed in May 2018. Next review May 2021.
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