LEGAL EAGLE: Being detained against my will

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I have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and now I am being kept in hospital against my will. Two doctors and a social worker turned up at my house and asked me a load of questions. They said they thought I needed help for my mental health but I told them there was nothing wrong with me. They would not listen to me and they brought me to hospital anyway. They said something about me being here for 28 days. Now that I am in hospital they are talking about giving me medication that I do not want. They say if I am not happy about being here I should have a tribunal but I am not sure whether to trust what they say. What should I do?

From what you say it seems that you have been detained under section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983. This gives the hospital the authority to detain you for assessment or for assessment followed by treatment of your mental health for up to 28 days. If you are unhappy about being in hospital then you can make an application to the Mental Health Tribunal but you can only do so during the first 14 days that you are on the section. The Mental Health Tribunal is independent of the hospital and has the power to discharge your section 2. If it discharges the section 2 then you will be free to leave hospital and you cannot be compelled to take medication.

You will have been allocated someone called a Responsible Clinician, who is usually a consultant psychiatrist. Your Responsible Clinician has the power to discharge the section 2 at any time so if you are able to persuade him or her that you are well enough to leave hospital then that may be way of being discharged.

If you have family then the person who is classed as your Nearest Relative under the Mental Health Act 1983 has the power to order your discharge from hospital. This would not automatically mean that you would be discharged because your Responsible Clinician could bar your Nearest Relative from discharging you. However, if he or she did that then you would have a hearing with the hospital managers so that they could decide whether you should be discharged.

As you have been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 and you are eligible to apply to the Mental Health Tribunal (assuming you are still within the first 14 days of the section 2) you are entitled to non-means-tested legal aid so you should ask for a solicitor who can advise you in more detail about all of the above matters.

l Ben Hoare Bell Solicitors has several specialist and accredited Solicitors who can help with Mental Health law. To speak to a Solicitor please ring 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for more information.