Being sectioned means you are detained, under the Mental Health Act, for hospital treatment.
The law, in a nutshell
The Mental Health Act 1983, is divided into 10 parts - each one covering a specific area. It is a complex piece of legislation, and some critics argue that reform is needed, especially for the rules outlining the compulsory admission to hospital and treatment of the patient without their consent.
Under what circumstances could I be detained for hospital treatment?
Initially, an approved social worker, or your nearest relative, can make an application to have you detained for assessment, based on two medical recommendations (i.e. your doctor). The grounds for the application are set out under different sections of the Mental Health Act 1983.
Section Two is most often called upon to secure a hospital assessment. To qualify, it must be agreed that you're suffering from a mental disorder to a degree that warrants medical care and attention. Under Section Two, you can be detained for up to 28 days.
If a longer stay is deemed necessary for treatment, (initially for six months) an application under Section Three of the Mental Health Act 1983 will be required. Under this section, the mental disorder that you're suffering from must be specified, as well as any treatment proposed. Section Four covers emergency cases, and enables one doctor to order you to 'rest' in hospital for 72 hours.
Can they force medication on me?
Yes, under Sections Two, Three and Four, you may have to accept any medical advice or treatment that your doctor deems necessary. If they're talking about electro convulsive therapy (ECT) and you're unhappy with that, your doctor has a statutory responsibility to obtain a second opinion from an independent Second Opinion Appointed Doctor who is appointed by the Mental Health Act Commission (known as a SOAD). If the second doctor says you should have the treatment, you are legally obliged to do so.
How do I get out?
You are free to leave once your doctor is satisfied that you have made a recovery, or if the section order comes to an end. If you feel ready to face the world before that time, you can be discharged in several ways. Either you or your nearest relative can apply to the hospital managers, or your case may be referred to a Mental Health Tribunal. It should be pointed out that many patients remain in hospital voluntarily after a section order has come to an end, in order to complete any recommended treatment.
Do I have any rights?
Yes, although they vary by section. Under the terms of the Mental Health Act, you are legally entitled to a leaflet outlining your rights according to the section you've been detained under. A range of leaflets are available, each one detailing the care you can expect to receive under the terms of the section order, plus contacts if you have any questions or wish to appeal at any time. Other leaflets are available that explain issues such as Guardianship, supervised discharge and hospital orders with restrictions (if you're serving a prison sentence at the time, for example.)
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