What is the Mental Health Act 1983?



What is the Mental Health Act 1983?

The Mental Health Act 1983 is a piece of legislation which governs when you can be admitted and detained for treatment of a mental disorder. There are various parts of the Act in which you may be sectioned under and there are different sets of rules for each of these.

Some patients suffering from a mental disorder are classified as voluntary patients as they agree to remain in hospital for treatment. However, patients who are deemed to lack insight into their illness may be detained for treatment against their wishes under the Mental Health Act.  This is also referred to as being ‘sectioned’. If you are sectioned as a formal patient, you do not have the same rights as voluntary patients as you are not free to leave. The length of time you can be detained depends on which section you are detained under.

What is a mental disorder?

A mental disorder is defined as ‘any disorder or disability of the mind’. This is a wide definition and covers, but is not limited to, disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and learning disabilities which are associated with abnormally aggressive behaviour.


What happens if I am sectioned?

For this to happen, you must be assessed by a team of 3 health professionals. This would usually be:

  • An Approved Mental Health Professional (referred to as an AMHP) or the nearest relative;
  • A registered medical practitioner (usually a doctor who knows you, such as your GP); and
  • A section 12 approved doctor (a doctor who has received specialist training, usually a psychiatrist).

The AMHP will interview to decide whether detaining you in hospital is in your best interests and if it is the best way of providing the treatment you require. The doctors must agree to this decision and must also agree to this by their own assessment. They must also agree that it is in the interests of your own health, your own safety or to protect the safety of other people. If possible, one of the doctors should already know you and both doctors should assess you within 5 days of each other. The decision of whether to section you will be made by the AMHP within a 14 day window.

If the decision is made to section you and you have not been assessed in hospital before or for a long period of time, you will be detained under section 2 of the Act. This is a short term section where you be assessed to see whether you suffer from a mental disorder which requires treatment in hospital.

How long can I be detained?

You can be kept under a section 2 for a maximum of 28 days However, if at any time your doctor is satisfied that you are suffering from a mental illness which warrants your detention in hospital for treatment, he may place you on longer term section 3 detention which may last up to 6 months.

You may apply to the Mental Health Tribunal to appeal your section within the first 14 days of your detention.

If you have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 and would like advice regarding your rights, please contact us on 0207 976 2233.

By Chanelle Dadral

Paralegal to Shoni Newell



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