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Getting Admitted To A Mental Health Hospital

Mental Health Conditions

Mental health hospitals, nowadays known as psychiatric hospitals, specialise in the treatment and support of people with mental health problems. People can be admitted as a voluntary patient or be forced into hospital under the Mental Health Act 2007 (sectioned).

Most people will receive treatment outside of a mental health hospital if they need support with a mental illness, usually at home and with the help of their doctor. If you become unwell and require a higher level of care, admission to hospital may be the best option to treat your symptoms through specialist mental health care and treatment.

Mental health hospitals have multiple wards and being admitted to these depends on how unwell you are or what type of mental health condition you have, these include, rehabilitation wards, specialist wards, acute wards and Psychiatric Intensive Care Units

What Wards Will You Be Admitted To?

When you first arrive at a psychiatric hospital, you may go into the acute ward for assessment and treatment. The acute ward will have a mix of voluntary and detained patients with a variety of diagnoses, some experiencing significant distress. When they are stable, they will either be moved to a more appropriate ward or discharged.

People are admitted to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit if there are concerns they may harm either themselves or others. Most people at the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit are admitted under the Mental Health Act 2007, which is likely to be locked.

Specialist wards will have specially trained staff for the type of disorder cared for. This can include eating disorders, personality disorders, units for young people and forensic units for offenders with mental health problems.

Rehabilitation wards help you become more independent and prepare you to go back into the community, through treatment such as occupational therapy.

Mental Health

Voluntary admission to mental health hospitals

If you receive treatment for your mental illness or disorder of your own free will at a psychiatric hospital, you are classed as a voluntary patient. To qualify as a voluntary patient, you must have the capacity to understand your decision to go into hospital and agree to the treatment of your illness.

You might struggle with anorexia and feel that you are unable to cope on your own and in need of further mental health support. Admission into a secure hospital can then help you to combat the fear of eating through a variety of inpatient services.

If you’re already receiving mental health care at home and become more unwell, the community mental health team caring for you, including occupational therapists and psychiatrists may suggest that you go into hospital for treatment if they have a genuine concern about your welfare.

If you agree with their assessment, your doctor or psychiatrist can then refer you to a hospital. However, whether you are admitted or not can depend on the number of beds available. If there is a shortage of beds, the hospital may only accept admissions of people who are sectioned.

If you feel that you are struggling with everyday life due to your illness or disorder and think that it would be best for you to receive treatment in hospital you can do the following.

Talk to a member of your community mental health team if you have one

Contact Your Doctor or out-of-hours service

Go to the A&E department of your local hospital

Contact your local crisis team

If the hospital has enough beds and the doctor agrees that you should be there, you will be admitted. If there are no beds, you may be directed to a different hospital. Being a voluntary patient means that you can leave whenever you want.

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Admission under the Mental Health Act

Even if you do not want treatment in hospital or do not realise that you need it, you can be forced to go into hospital under the Mental Health Act 2007. This is known as being sectioned, and you will not be able to leave unless the hospital and doctor agrees.

Reasons for being sectioned include

Your mental health condition is severe enough that doctors believe you must be urgently assessed and treated in hospital

Your mental health condition is putting yourself or other people at serious risk

The sectioning process begins when somebody alerts social services that you are unwell, you’re putting yourself at risk or someone else in danger. This could be a family member, your GP, counsellor or police officer depending on the circumstances.

You will then be assessed by a team of three medical professionals, including two doctors and an Approved Mental Health Professional. You cannot be detained (sectioned) for more than 28 days without an assessment, and 72 hours in an emergency. If assessed as needing treatment, you can be detained for up to six months at a time, which can be renewed by your doctor.

Common types of mental health conditions

  • Anxiety disorder, including social anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD and phobias

  • Depression, including bipolar disorder, SAD and postnatal depression

  • Eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, compulsive and binge eating disorder and orthorexia

  • Personality disorders including narcissistic personality disorder and dependent personality disorder

  • Schizophrenia, including paranoid schizophrenia

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a mental health hospital?

More Commonly known as psychiatric hospitals, mental health hospitals specialise in the treatment and support of people with mental health illnesses, such as personality disorders, eating disorders or if you are at risk of harming yourself or others.

Can you be forced into a mental health hospital?

You can be forced into a mental health hospital under the Mental Health Act 2007 even if you do not want or think that you need to. A person with a mental illness may not even realise that they need care and supervision and that they would otherwise put themselves and others at risk of harm.

How do you get admitted to a mental health hospital in the UK?

For voluntary admission, speak to your community mental health team or your doctor, go to the hospital or contact your local crisis team. People can also be detained under the Mental Health Act 1993 if their mental health condition puts themselves or others in danger or following an assessment.

What are the requirements for voluntary admission?

To go into a mental health hospital voluntarily, you must have a mental health problem and be referred by your doctor. You must have the mental capacity to understand the decision and to give your consent.

How long will I have to stay in a mental health hospital?

If you are a voluntary inpatient, you are free to leave when you want. If you have been sectioned, you cannot be detained for more than 28 days without assessment and during treatment, you may be admitted for up to six months at a time.

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