Mental Health Act

The Mental Health Act was first introduced in 1983 (further amended in 2007) and sets out how you can be treated if you have a mental disorder, and what your rights are.

The Mental Health Act says what legal powers doctors and Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) have to detain you in a hospital against your will. The doctors involved will either already know you (such as your GP) or be approved under Section 12 of the Mental Health Act.

The role of the doctors is to make recommendations for an application to be assessed. The role of the Approved Mental Health Professional is to ensure that an application to be assessed is necessary and that no ‘less restrictive’ form of intervention can be used.

The doctors and Approved Mental Health Professional will consider making an application for keeping you in hospital against your will, if it is felt that you may cause injury to yourself or others and if it is felt that you may not necessarily be aware enough to access the proper medical care required.

It lays down what doctors and Approved Mental Health Professionals can and can’t do and what rights you and your relatives have.

An application for you to be assessed will be made on the basis of nature (for example a diagnosis of mental disorder or past history) or degree (which is the level your mental disorder is affecting you and the risks for you and for others).

The Mental Health Act outlines a legal framework, which has to be followed to ensure your rights are protected. The Mental Health Act sets out:

  • When you can be taken into hospital against your will
  • When you can be given treatment against your will
  • What your rights are
  • What safeguards there are to make sure your rights are protected.


The Mental Health Act 1983 is divided into sections. You can be kept in hospital under different sections so you can be assessed or so you can be provided with treatment for a mental disorder. When you are admitted to hospital under compulsion this is commonly known as “being detained under the Mental Health Act”. The length of the hospital stay depends on the type of section applied under the Mental Health Act.