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Section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983 - The Law and your rights

Why am I detained?

An application will have been made by mental health professionals because they are satisfied that you need to be in hospital because they believe you have a mental disorder. They must also believe you need to be in hospital for your health or safety or for the protection of other people and that any necessary treatment needs to be carried out in hospital, even though it might be against your wishes. 

How long can I be detained?

The initial section 3 lasts for up to 6 months. However, if the doctors and health professionals think that you need to be treated in hospital for longer than the initial 6 months, it can be renewed for a further 6 months and then for periods of one year at a time. 

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 the 6 month period. Your nearest relative should take advice about this and we can advise on this.

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;
  • make formal recommendations about leave in the community; transfer to another hospital or into guardianship or that your doctor considers whether to make you subject to a CTO.  

If the 6 months run out and the sections is not renewed, the section expires and you will be discharged.

Can I leave the hospital?

Only your doctor gives permission for you to leave even for a short time. 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 you can be given medication against your wishes for up to 3 months. After that, except in an emergency, if you do not agree to taking the medication, a second opinion must be sought from another doctor before you can be given medication against your wishes. If the second opinion doctor says you must have the medication, it can continue to be given to you against your wishes.

What about services after I am discharged?

After you are discharged you are entitled to free aftercare services for as long as you need them. If you do not receive them then we can help you to obtain the services you need.

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