The key roles of the Mental Health Act

When someone is detained under the Act, both they and their ‘nearest relative’ must be told about their rights. They must also be told what is happening and how this relates to the Act. This section explains the key roles to do with the Act, including ‘nearest relative’.

Some of the key roles of the Mental Health Act are:

Nearest relative

The meaning of ‘nearest relative’ is quite complicated. It is different from ‘next of kin’. It is generally the person who comes first in the following list: husband, wife or civil partner (or unmarried partner who has lived with the person for at least the past six months before admission); adult son or daughter; father or mother; brother or sister; grandparent; grandchild; uncle or aunt; nephew or niece; someone (not a relative) the person has lived with for at least the past five years before admission. But there are other things that can affect who the nearest relative is, such as if someone is living abroad. It is the approved mental health professional’s (AMHP’s) responsibility to work out who the person’s nearest relative is. The Mental Health Act gives significant powers to the nearest relative. 

Independent mental health advocate (IMHA)

A person who is detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act or is subject to a guardianship order (see section 'Guardianship') has the right to access an independent mental health advocate (IMHA). The IMHA will explain the person’s rights. They will also support the person to exercise those rights – for example, challenging their detention or the guardianship order. The IMHA is there to make sure the person can take part in decisions that are made about their care and treatment. The IMHA is independent from the hospital and they can speak on behalf of the person at meetings.

Approved mental health professional (AMHP)

This is a professional who has had special training to understand the legal requirements for arranging an assessment or to support the nearest relative to arrange an assessment. The AMHP is the person who is responsible for deciding whether a person is detained under the Mental Health Act. They will also have the local authority’s approval to carry out various functions under the Act. An AMHP might be a social worker, mental health nurse, occupational therapist or psychologist.

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