Being sectioned means that you have to go into hospital or an adolescent unit. It is done for your own safety because doctors or other professionals feel that you may be a danger to yourself or others.
You won't be able to leave until a professional has decided you are better. You will only be sectioned if professionals feel it is absolutely necessary
Most young people go into a unit because they are feeling unwell and they know it is a place where they can get better. But sometimes other people who care about you might feel you need specialist help in a hospital.
The Mental Health Act (1983) has no lower age limit. This means that it is possible to be sectioned at any age, although it is really rare for children to be sectioned.
Why am I being sectioned?
If you are sectioned, this is usually for the sake of your own health and safety, or sometimes for the safety of the people around you.
You might be sectioned if a health professional thinks you have a mental illness that needs hospital treatment, and when you are refusing treatment.
Sectioning is used so that people can be assessed, monitored and treated to stabilise their condition and help them recover. A section sets out how long you may have to stay in hospital.
There are different sections under the mental health act. The two most common ones are a Section 2 and a Section 3. Section 2 is for a maximum of 28 days. Section 3 is for up to six months (which can be renewed afterwards if necessary for longer).
Being sectioned usually means that you are assessed before you arrive on the unit. This is usually done by an approved social worker
, a 'section 12 approved' doctor and a registered medical practitioner. Your parents or guardian will be involved whenever possible.
Young people may have already been admitted to an inpatient unit before they are sectioned, for example if they are trying to discharge themselves and this is not safe.
You will be asked questions about how you feel – and in particular if you have any thoughts or feelings about hurting yourself or other people. You can ask to have someone with you during the assessment.
It's very important that you let people know how you feel about things at this time and ask any questions you might have.
If you have been found in mental distress in a public place it's possible the police may take you to a police station for an assessment. If this happens you have rights under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE).
Admission to hospital
The admission process to the adolescent unit or hospital is likely to be similar whether you are sectioned or not. You may need to fill out some forms and wait in a room while they organise a bed for you. You will probably have someone with you all of the time.
If you are sectioned you will be given information about which section of the act you are being held in hospital under.
Make sure you ask any questions you may have at this point. You can ask the nursing staff exactly what your rights are.
Normally you are not treated any differently in the unit if you are under a section. The main difference is that the staff can stop you from leaving and under certain sections you can be given treatment even if you refuse.
A doctor or nurse will talk with you about your treatment plan. If you are very ill when you are admitted, doctors may decide what treatment you will have. If you are under a section you cannot refuse any medication
the doctors give you.
Again, remember that you have rights and you can appeal against any decisions made while you are in the unit. You can also make a complaint if you are upset about your treatment in the unit.
If you have been sectioned you may feel angry and that you're not in control of things. There will be staff on hand that you can talk to about these feelings. Most of the time if it's possible to avoid sectioning a person, staff will aim to do this.
As you progress and start to feel better you may find that your section and your treatment change. You could also be taken off your section alltogether.
This means that you then become a voluntary patient, or that you can leave the unit when you like.