Legislation

Find out what protections exist when you are treated against your will

Very few people will ever be treated for mental health problems against their will. However, if you are very ill, the law says you can be treated against your will if this is necessary to protect you or to protect other people.

The main law about this is the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 (updated in 2015). It says that:

  • Some changes from the 2015 Act came into force in June 2017. Read our guide for more information
  • All treatment under the Mental Health Act must follow ten principles, known as the Millan principles
  • Everyone with a mental health problem has a right to independent advocacy
  • You have the right to make an advance statement, setting out how you do or do not want to be treated
  • You have the right to appoint a Named Person, who can act on your behalf
  • You can be detained by a nurse for up to 3 hours so that a doctor can examine you
  • You can be taken to a “place of safety” for up to 24 hours if you become unwell in public
  • You can be detained by any doctor for up to 72 hours to protect you or other people. This is called an Emergency Detention Certificate
  • You can be detained by a psychiatrist and specialist social worker (Mental Health Officer) for up to 28 days to protect you or other people. This is called a Short Term Detention Order
  • You or your Named Person can appeal to the Mental Health Tribunal against a Short Term Detention Order
  • You can be detained by the Mental Health Tribunal for up to six months to protect you or other people. This may be either in hospital or in the community. This is called a Compulsory Treatment Order
  • You or your Named Person can appeal to the Mental Health Tribunal against a Compulsory Treatment Order
  • Some rare treatments, such as artificial feeding or Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) have special safeguards
  • The Act places a duty on local authorities to provide services “designed to promote well-being and social development” for people with mental health problems
  • All treatment under the Mental Health Act must comply with the Human Rights Act 1998, which gives you the right not to be treated in an inhumane or degrading manner

The Mental Welfare Commission

Call the Mental Welfare Commission’s user and carer line on 0800 389 6809.

Or find out more details on the Mental Health Act and Human Rights Act.

Visit Mental Welfare Commission