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Being detained

If you become unwell with a mental illness, you may need treatment. In some cases, if you refuse treatment, you may be detained under the Mental Health Act, or 'sectioned'.

This means you will have to spend time in hospital, even if you do not want to.

There are three types of detention:

1. Emergency Detention

This allows a person to be held in hospital for up to 72 hours, while their condition is assessed. It can only take place when recommended by a doctor. Where possible, a mental health officer should also agree to it.

2. Short Term Detention

This allows a person to be detained for 28 days. It can only take place if recommended by a psychiatrist and a mental health officer.

3. Compulsory Treatment Order

This has to be approved by a tribunal. It allows treatment for six months initially, but could be extended for a further six months and after that, for a year at a time. It could be in hospital or in the community.

There are strict rules about when this can happen. The tribunal can only approve a compulsory treatment order if:

  • you have a mental disorder.
  • medical treatment is available which could stop your condition getting worse, or help treat some of your symptoms.
  • there would be a significant risk to you, or others, if that treatment was not provided.
  • your ability to make decisions about medical treatment is significantly impaired because you have a mental disorder.

The use of compulsory powers is necessary.

The law contains safeguards to protect your rights if you are detained. For example, you have the right to appeal against the detention, and to nominate a named person who will look after your interests.

If you or someone you know is affected by this, you may find it helpful to read this Scottish Government guide "A short introduction to the Mental Health Act". (This document has not yet been updated with changes to the Act in 2015)

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