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What Happens If You Get Sectioned

Mental Health Conditions

Under the Mental Health Act of 2007, people can be lawfully detained in hospital and given compulsory treatment because of a mental health condition. Otherwise Known as ‘being sectioned’. That is not to say just having a mental illness can force you into hospital, you must meet certain criteria that make it necessary for your own wellbeing.

Being sectioned is seen as an absolute last resort and people who are sectioned have usually explored other avenues with their GP already. For example, somebody with Bulimia might have had years of treatment but is at the point where if they don’t receive urgent intervention they are at a very high risk of death.

What Are Sections?

To be sectioned doesn’t mean the same thing for thing for everybody. As the name would suggest, there are different sections each case falls into. The term ‘section’ means a section of the Mental Health Act that you can be lawfully detained under because you fit that criteria.

Why Would Somone Get Sectioned?

To be sectioned, you must either:

Have a mental health condition severe enough that doctors feel you must be urgently assessed and treated in hospital.

Your mental health condition is putting either yourself or others at risk, making it essential that you be detained and receive treatment.

If you are so unwell that you are unfit to consent to an assessment or treatment, this can also be a reason to be sectioned.

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How Do You Get Sectioned

The first step in being sectioned is for somebody involved in your wellbeing or safety, such as a parent, GP or a counsellor, to alert social services that you are unwell. If the case is urgent and involves you or somebody else being in danger, for example if you are considering suicide, then social services will send three medical professionals to your home to assess you. These will be two doctors and an Approved Mental Health Professional.

Sometimes people will be a patient within a hospital when they are assessed. This could be because of something related to their mental health condition, for example they have harmed themselves or attempted suicide.

To be sectioned, at least two of these medical practitioners must write a statement explaining how they feel you comply with the criteria and a recommendation for you to be sectioned. This rule is slightly different if it’s an emergency that you be detained, in which case a doctor, police officer or magistrate can detain you, depending on where you are when the emergency arises.

Where Do You Go When You Are Sectioned?

When sectioned, you will be taken to a hospital or other mental health facility. If you are already in hospital, you will be transferred to the psychiatric unit or an appropriate mental health facility. Once there, you won’t be allowed to leave until doctors are happy that it is safe for you to go home. You might be granted permission for temporary leave, such as a weekend at home.

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

When Sectioned, How Long Are You Detained?

The Mental Health Act states, you cannot be detained for more than 28 days from when you arrive without an assessment, this is known as the assessment section. If you have been detained in the case of an emergency section, you can only be held for 72 hours without assessment.

Once you are assessed you then fall under the treatment section, which can last up to six months at a time. However, at the end of the six months your doctor may decide to renew the section so you could be in hospital for much longer. Each section you may be detained under has different rules about how long you can be held in hospital and some have had their limits removed under the current emergency regulations.

What Happens If You Improve?

Once the doctors regarded you as being well enough to lift the section, you may be transferred to another part of the hospital, a specialised clinic (both of these would be as a volunteer rather than being forcibly detained) or allowed to go home. You might be given medication, need to attend regular counselling sessions or receive mental health care at home if doctors feel it is necessary or if you relapse.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sectioning?

Sectioning is when you are lawfully detained in a hospital or mental health facility and given compulsory treatment. You can only be sectioned if you have a mental health condition and meet criteria in the Mental Health Act 2007

Who makes the decision to issue a section?

Social services will send three medical professionals to your home to assess you, consisting of two doctors and an approved mental health professional. If they feel you need to be sectioned, they will write a statement and make arrangements.

What are the criteria to be sectioned?

To be considered in need of sectioning, you must either have a mental health issue so severe that you are considered by doctors to need urgent treatment or be an immediate danger to yourself or others due to your mental health condition.

Where will I go if I’m sectioned?

You will likely go to a hospital where you will stay in a mental health unit. You may go to a specialist mental health facility, like a residential eating disorder clinic. You will only be allowed to go home when doctors feel you are well enough to do so and no longer meet the criteria for needing to be sectioned.

How long can you be sectioned for?

You can’t be sectioned for more than 28 days without another assessment. If it was an emergency sectioning, this is just 72 hours. If you need to stay, you can be held for up to six months at a time, but doctors can renew this if they feel you are not well enough to go home.

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