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Mental health services explained

The Mental Health Act: your rights – easy read

The Mental Health Act is a law which tells people with a mental health disorder what their rights are and how they can be treated. The term "mental health disorder" is used to describe people who have:

  • a mental illness
  • a learning disability
  • a personality disorder

Being detained (also known as sectioned) under the Mental Health Act is when you are made to stay in hospital for assessment or treatment. It is important that you know what happens to you when you are detained, what your rights are and where you can seek help.

The Mental Health Act Code of Practice tells everyone how to use this law and what they must do.

The leaflets below explain in detail what information you should get:

  • if you are sectioned
  • what health professionals should or shouldn't do
  • what your rights and choices are

 You can download or print out each leaflet. Ask someone you trust to explain anything that is unclear to you. 

You can also take the leaflets to a mental health advocacy service. Advocacy services can help you express your views, support you in your rights, and help you make choices if you feel you need extra support.

Words you may not know

The leaflets may have words that you don't know. This guide will explain most words used in simple terms: Code of Practice plain English glossary (PDF, 2.47Mb).

Download the factsheets

I am detained in hospital. What does it mean? 

Find out what happens when you are made to stay in hospital. This could be for treatments or assessment. Find out about your rights and who you can ask for help. 

Download: Detention and your rights (PDF, 2.61Mb) 


What is a community treatment order?

Find out what happens when you leave hospital and get treated in the community. Learn about the rules you need to follow and what happens if you break the rules.

Download: Community treatment orders (PDF, 2.73Mb) 


How to give someone the power to make decisions for you

Find out who can make decisions for you and how you can give them the right to make these decisions. Also find out what decisions they can't make for you. 

Download: About people making decisions for you (PDF, 2.65Mb)


Everyone is equal. What does that mean?

There is a law called The Equality Act, which says that everybody should be treated fairly. Find out how this law can help you and who you can ask for advice. 

Download: Everyone is equal – your rights (PDF, 2.90Mb)


What is guardianship?

A guardian is someone who can help you live outside of hospital. They can also make decisions for you, like where you live. Find out what else a guardian can do for you and who you can ask to help you understand your guardianship.

Download: Guardianship (PDF, 3.45Mb).


What are Independent Mental Health Advocates?

An Independent Mental Health Advocate can explain your rights to you. They are free and you can contact one if you are not sure what to do. They can also help you make decisions. Sometimes they are just called IMHA.

Download: About Independent Mental Health Advocates (PDF, 2.63Mb)


Information you must be given

When you are detained in hospital, someone must explain what happens to you and why. The information should be easy for you to understand. If it isn't, they should explain it again. You can also ask an Independent Mental Health Advocate to help you. 

Download: Information you must be given (PDF, 2.55Mb)


Leaving the hospital ward

Leave means being able to leave the ward you are detained on. There are different kinds of leave, and sometimes you might have to go with staff. Find out who decides your leave by clicking the link below.

Download: Leaving the hospital ward (PDF, 2.54Mb)


What does the term 'your nearest relative' mean?

The Mental Health Act often uses this term. It also tells you who your nearest relative should be. The term is used to refer to someone who looks out for you, and makes sure your wishes and choices are heard and understood.

Download: Your nearest relative (PDF, 2.90Mb)


What should your family ask when you are detained?

It's sometimes difficult to know the right questions to ask. This factsheet has some suggestions for family about what to ask hospital staff. 

Download: Questions for your family to ask when you are detained (PDF, 2.43Mb)


What questions should you ask when you are detained?

It's sometimes difficult to know the right questions to ask. This factsheet has some questions you could ask hospital staff, which should help you understand what's happening to you and why.

Download: Questions to ask when you are detained (PDF, 2.61Mb)


Can professionals share information about you with each other? 

Professionals sometimes need to share information about you. They often need to ask you first for permission, but sometimes they don't. Learn more about your rights and who to ask for advice. 

Download: Sharing your information with professionals (PDF, 2.57Mb)


Can professionals share information about you with your family, friends and carers?

The team in charge of your treatment can't give your family information about you without asking you first. You can choose what they share. This is called giving consent. Learn more about your rights and who to ask for advice.

Download: How information about you is shared with your family, friends and carers (PDF, 2.71Mb)


Can people visit me in hospital?

You have the right to visitors when you are made to stay in hospital, but there are different rules, depending on the ward you are staying at. You can also say when you do not want anyone to visit you. 

Download: Your right to have visitors (PDF, 2.83Mb)


How can I make sure people know what I want?

If you know that you may have to go into hospital at some point, you can tell people how you would like to be treated in advance. There are different ways to do this and you may have to fill in forms. Find out how it works and who can help you with the legal bits.

Download: Making decisions in advance PDF, 2.78Mb)


Your treatment and care plan

If you have to stay in hospital for treatment, you'll get what is called a care plan (sometimes called a treatment plan). The plan will say what is going to happen and you should say whether you are ok with it or not. That's called giving consent. You can always ask someone to help you with the decision.

Download: Your treatment and you rights (PDF, 2.61Mb) 



Page last reviewed: 06/07/2015

Next review due: 06/07/2017

What is the Mental Capacity Act?

The Mental Capacity Act can help protect and empower you to make your own decisions about your care and treatment if you lack mental capacity