Mental Health Act 1983 - Detention
This section gives information on:
How can I be detained?
Who decides if I should be detained?
Usually, 3 people have to agree that you need to be detained. But this may not be the case if the situation is urgent.
The 3 people are normally:
- an approved mental health professional (AMHP),
- a doctor who has special training in mental disorders, called a ‘section 12 approved doctor’, and
- another doctor.
If possible, at least one of the doctors should have met you before.
The AHMP can only agree this if they have seen you in the past 14 days.
The doctors must either have seen you at the same time, or within five days of each other.
If all 3 people agree that you need to be detained, the AMHP will apply to a local hospital for a bed.
Your nearest relative can also apply for you to be detained, but this is rare. You can find out more about nearest relatives below.
What is an AMHP?
AMHPs are mental health professionals who carry out certain duties under the Mental Health Act. They are given specialist training to do this.
An AMHP might be a:
- social worker,
- occupational therapist, or
A doctor cannot be an AMHP.
Where am I assessed?
This depends on where you are. The assessment might take place at your home, in a public place, or in hospital.
If you are at home, the AMHP should introduce themselves, and the doctors, to you. They should explain why they have come to see you.
The AMHP can apply to court for a warrant if you refuse to let them in, or if they think it’s necessary for another reason. A warrant lets the police enter your home to take you somewhere safe. This is called a ‘section 135’. If your home can be made a safe place, you may be kept there while an assessment is arranged.
If you are away from home in a public place, the police can take you to a safe place under ‘section 136’. A safe place might be:
- your own home,
- a hospital, or
- a police station.
You can click on the following to find more information about them:
How do they assess me?
When you are safe, the professionals will decide if you need to be detained. They will ask you questions, and think about all your circumstances. They may ask you:
- how you are feeling,
- if you have plans to harm yourself or others,
- about your lifestyle, daily routine, and living conditions,
- if you have been taking your medication, and
- if you have been using drugs or alcohol.
What happens if I am detained?
If you are not already in hospital, the AMHP will arrange for you to go there as soon as possible. Sometimes the police will go with you.
Staff should tell you which section you are detained under, and what your rights are. They should also give you a ‘Patient Information Leaflet’ about your rights. If you find it hard to understand, let them know.
It is likely that you will be taken to a specialist ward for people with mental health problems. They may call this an ‘acute ward’ or a ‘psychiatric ward’. In most hospitals, the door to the ward will be locked.
Sometimes the hospital might be a long way from home. But guidance says that the AMHP should try to find you a hospital bed as close as is ‘reasonably possible’ to where you would like to be.
In hospital, you will be introduced to your ‘responsible clinician’. This is the person who is in charge of your care and treatment. They are usually a psychiatrist, but they can be other professionals too.
What is a nearest relative?
The ‘nearest relative’ is a legal term used in the Mental Health Act. It is not the same as your next of kin.
Your nearest relative has certain rights if:
- they are worried about your mental health,
- you are detained under the Mental Health Act, or
- professionals are thinking about detaining you under the Mental Health Act.
You can find more information about ‘Nearest relative’ here.
What happens next?
You must be discharged from the Mental Health Act when you don’t meet the criteria to be detained anymore. For example, if you are in hospital because your health puts you at risk, you can be discharged when this risk is low enough.
You can choose to stay in hospital, if hospital staff agree that you need to be there.
Most people will not have completely recovered from their illness when they leave hospital. If staff think you are ready to leave, they should plan what will happen next. This is called ‘discharge planning’.
Your doctors should start planning your discharge as soon as possible, and you should be involved. Discharge planning should be part of your care plan. Your care plan depends on what staff think will be best for you, and what you want. It might say:
- where you will live,
- what medication will help you,
- what social support you will have, and
- which mental health services can help.
You can find more information about ‘Discharge from the Mental Health Act’ here.
When you leave hospital, professionals should plan your care under the ‘Care Programme Approach (CPA)', if there’s a high risk that your mental health will get worse without ongoing care.
If you have been in hospital under section 3, you are entitled to free aftercare under section 117.
You can click on the following to find more information about them:
Community Treatment Order (CTO)
A CTO means that you can leave hospital, but you stay under the Mental Health Act. You have to meet conditions to stay in the community. You may be taken back to hospital if you don’t meet the conditions in the CTO, or you become unwell. This is sometimes called ‘supervised community treatment’.
You may go on a CTO if you are discharged from section 3. You can’t go on a CTO if you are under section 2, or if you are not detained.
You can find more information about ‘Community Treatment Order’ here.
Can I avoid being detained?
People often get detained because their mental health is putting them or others at risk, and they won’t accept treatment. Taking steps to improve your mental health can reduce the chance of being detained.
If it is likely you will be assessed soon, think about the possibility of accepting treatment, and reducing risky behaviour. During the assessment, you may want to explain how things are at home, and what
support you already have.
If the professionals think you are at risk, talk to them about other options for reducing these risks.
The professionals should listen to what you have to say, and consider all alternatives to detaining you. These alternatives might be treatment from local mental health services, or you agreeing to go to hospital.
If you want a friend or family member with you during a Mental Health Act assessment, let the approved mental health professional (AMHP) know.
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