What is the Mental Health Act?

The Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) allows medical professionals to make sure someone is admitted to hospital to be assessed and treated for mental health problems. This can be done without the person's agreement.

Being taken to a mental health unit in this way is called being 'sectioned' or detained under the MHA. Someone can be sectioned if their own health or safety is at risk, or for the protection of other people. The following terms could describe an admission to a mental health unit under a section of the MHA:

  • Detention or involuntary detention
  • Compulsory admission to hospital
  • Being sectioned
  • Being a formal patient
  • Compulsory Admission to Hospital

Compulsory admission comes under parts 2 and 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983. Part 2 of the Act deals with patients who are detained in hospital but have no criminal proceedings against them (civil sections). Part 3 of the Act, the ‘Forensic Sections’, concerns patients that have been involved in criminal proceedings.

A person can only be sectioned if an assessment by mental health professionals confirms that it is necessary.  Under the MHA, detained patients must be given information about their legal position and their rights both in conversation and in writing. That information explains why they are detained and how long this detention can last; how to appeal against detention; information about consent to treatment and how to access support from an Independent Mental Health Advocate.

Mental Health Act information