Children's Law Centre ‘Rights House’ 127-131 Ormeau Road, Belfast, BT7 1SH

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Mental Health


When can I be admitted to hospital because of a mental health difficulty?
You can be detained in hospital for an assessment of your mental health if a doctor who has seen you within the past two days is of the belief that:

(a)You are suffering from a degree of mental disorder which warrants detention; and
(b)There would be a substantial likelihood of serious physical harm to you or to others if you are not detained in hospital

The maximum length of time that you can be detained in hospital to have your mental health assessed is 14 days.
What happens after the assessment period is over?
After the assessment period is over you can be released from hospital or you can be detained for treatment of a mental health condition in a hospital if a psychiatrist believes that:
  1. You are suffering from a mental illness of a nature or degree that warrants your detention in hospital for treatment; and
  2. If you were not detained there would be a substantial likelihood of serious physical harm to you or to others.
How long can I be detained in hospital for?
At first,you can be detained for a period of 6 months and this can then be renewed for a further 6 months. After 1 year, 2 doctors must look again at your case and if they agree that the original grounds for your detention still apply you can be detained for a further year. After this your detention can be renewed each year.
What does the term “nearest relative” mean?
This is your closest relative and is the first person from the following list:
  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • brother or sister
  • grandparent
  • aunt or uncle
  • nephew or niece
If I am not happy with who my nearest relative is can I choose someone else to be my nearest relative?
No. The law in Northern Ireland does not allow you to change who your nearest relative is, but the government is looking at ways of changing the law to make it possible for you to change your nearest relative to someone else.
Who can discharge me from hospital?
If you are detained in hospital the doctor in charge of your case, known as the Responsible Medical Officer, has a duty to discharge you if they believe that:
  1. You are no longer suffering from a mental illness which warrants your detention in hospital for treatment; or
  2. There is sufficient care available for you if you were to be discharged and that your discharge would not create a substantial likelihood of serious physical harm to you or to others.
Your nearest relative can apply to discharge you by giving 72 hours written notice to the Health and Social Care Trust that you are in but your doctor (the Responsible Medical Officer) can stop you from being discharged if they believe that:
  1. To discharge you would cause a substantial likelihood of serious physical harm to you or to other people; or
  2. They believe that you would not receive the proper care if you were discharged from hospital
You have the right to appeal this decision to a Mental Health Review Tribunal.
What is a Mental Health Review Tribunal?
The Mental Health Review Tribunal is a part of the Northern Ireland Court Service. It is a panel which is appointed to review the cases of people who are detained in hospital under the provisions of the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986.

The panel will be made up of three members, the chairperson will be legally qualified, one member will be an independent psychiatrist and the third member will be a lay person.

You can apply to have the grounds of your detention reviewed by the Mental Health Review Tribunal at any time.

If you are under 16 years old then you will be automatically referred to the Mental Health Review Tribunal after one year of being admitted to hospital and every year after that.

If you are aged 16-18 then you will be referred to the Mental Health Review Tribunal every two years.
How do I make an application to a Mental Health Review Tribunal?
An application to the Mental Health Review Tribunal must:

  • Be in writing
  • Contain your name and address
  • Contain the name and address of your nearest relative
  • Contain the name and address of the person who you wish to represent you at the Tribunal
Once the Mental Health Review Tribunal receives your application it will notify the hospital you are in who must send a statement to the Tribunal about you within 3 weeks. Copies of all documents will be sent to your legal representative.

Before your Mental Health Review Tribunal happens the medical member of the tribunal panel will examine your medical records. You have the right to obtain an independent medical report if you wish to do so.

Your Mental Health Review Tribunal will be held in private. The Tribunal can give you its decision immediately or in writing within 14 days of the date of your Tribunal.
Do I have to tell anyone about my mental health?
If you were detained in a hospital for assessment of your mental health condition you do not have to disclose this unless you are directly asked about the assessment in the course of legal proceedings.

If you were detained in a hospital for treatment of a mental health condition then you may have to disclose this to:
  • An employer
  • To the DVLNI
  • To an insurance company
  • If you are applying for a visa to travel to the USA
For further information about whether you need to disclose information about your mental health contact us.If you have any questions about your rights and mental health law please contact CHALKY on 08088085678

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Children's Law Centre
‘Rights House’
127-131 Ormeau Road,
Belfast,
BT7 1SH

Tel: 028 90245704
Fax: 028 90245679

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