Site icon Nursing Revalidation

The Mental Health Act 1983: A Guide to Understanding the Legislation and Your Rights

Mental Health Act 1983


The Mental Health Act 1983 covers when and how people can be detained and treated against their will, also known as sectioning. Lawmakers have amended the act several times over the years, most recently in 2007. However, there are still many parts that are outdated and don’t adequately protect the rights and autonomy of patients.

In this comprehensive guide, I will break down exactly what the Mental Health Act involves, who it applies to, how the sectioning process works and what your rights are if authorities detain you under the act.

Who does the Mental Health Act apply to?

The Mental Health Act 1983 applies to people over the age of 16 who have a mental disorder. This includes conditions like:

It covers cases where someone has a mental illness so severe it warrants detention in hospital against their will in order to treat them or prevent them from harming themselves or others.

In order to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act, it needs to be proven that:

The sectioning process

The Mental Health Act contains several sections or orders that authorities can use to detain patients. The main ones are:

Assessment Order

Treatment Order

Emergency Order

To be sectioned, you will be assessed. Two doctors and a mental health practitioner will assess you. They will decide if you meet the criteria for compulsory detention.

If sectioned, the hospital will admit you. The hospital will treat you without your consent.

Your rights under the Mental Health Act

Even when sectioned, you still have certain rights under the Mental Health Act code of practice. This includes:

The hospital should also give you information about your diagnosis, treatment plan, and medication. The hospital should involve you and your wishes in the treatment planning process wherever possible.

Criticisms and calls for reform

Despite being a key piece of legislation for protecting vulnerable individuals, the Mental Health Act is also controversial and often criticized. Some of the main concerns raised are:

This has led to ongoing debates around reform and updates needed to modernize the Act. Potential changes proposed include:

The legislation will likely remain a source of controversy between those arguing for greater protection of vulnerable individuals and those who believe it oversteps human rights.


The Mental Health Act 1983 is very important. This law only applies in England and Wales. Many people disagree about this law. Many people think lawmakers need to add better protections for civil liberties and autonomy. If authorities section you or a loved one under the Act, you should know your rights. Know the safeguards in place. Get legal advice if you think the detention or treatment is improper. Reforming the law takes time. But you can still make your voice heard under the current law.

Exit mobile version