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Section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983 - The Law and your rights

Why am I detained?

The law allows you to be detained for assessment and treatment if the doctors are satisfied that: 

  • You might be suffering from a mental disorder and its type or severity mean it is reasonable to keep you in hospital for assessment and treatment for a short period;
  • You should be in hospital for your own health or safety or to protect other people; and
  • The assessment and any necessary treatment needs to be carried out in hospital, even though it might be against your wishes. 

How long can I be detained?

For up to 28 days. If you have not been discharged before then, you will be free to go unless the doctors and other mental health professionals think that you need to be treated in hospital for longer in which case they can detain you under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act.  

How can I be discharged?

Your doctor can discharge you at any time.

Your nearest relative can order your discharge. If they do this your doctor has 72 hours to agree (and you will be discharged) or disagree (and you will remain detained). Your nearest relative can only ask for your discharge once during any 6 month period. Your nearest relative should take advice about exercising this right. We can talk to them about that.

The Hospital Managers can discharge you. They review reports usually prepared by your doctor, social worker and nurse and ask them questions and should also speak to you to find out what your wishes are. They can also adjourn for further information or make informal recommendations about your case.  

The Tribunal can discharge you. The Tribunal is an independent panel of 3 people, a lawyer, psychiatrist and a layperson. Reports will be provided by your doctor and nurses. The Tribunal can: 

  • discharge you (immediately or delayed for a period of time);
  • adjourn for further information; or
  • make formal recommendations about leave in the community or transfer to another hospital or into guardianship.  

If the 28 days run out and the sections is not renewed, the section expires and you will be discharged.

Can I leave the hospital?

Only if your doctor gives permission for you to leave. This is done under S.17 of the Mental Health Act. It is time restricted and can be subject to conditions such as being escorted by a nurse. If you do not keep to the time limits or restrictions you can be brought back to hospital, by the police if necessary. It is up to your clinical team to make decisions about leave within the hospital grounds.

Do I have to take medication?

No but if you do not agree to take it you can be given it against your wishes for the whole 28 days. There is no right to appeal against the doctor’s decision about medication during this period. 

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