The Mental Health Act and Guardianship

The Mental Health Act 1983 is a law that is designed to protect the rights of people who are assessed as having a 'mental disorder'. This is a term used to describe any disorder or disability of the mind, including dementia. The Act explains in what circumstances, and for what reasons, a person may be detained in hospital, and what obligations healthcare and social care providers have to the person. This section looks at the parts of the Mental Health Act that cover the process of someone being detained in hospital against their will (sometimes referred to as 'being sectioned'), challenging someone's detention, guardianship and after-care services.

The Act only applies in England and Wales. It does not apply in Northern Ireland, where the equivalent legislation is based on the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986.

When someone is detained under the Mental Health Act, both they and their nearest relative must be informed of their rights, what is happening and how this relates to the Act.