Why should I instruct a mental health lawyer?
There are many benefits from instructing a mental health lawyer, as Coodes’ Legal Executive Rebecca Moore explains…
In my experience, many people don’t realise that during a time of crisis, particularly if they or a family member has been detained under the Mental Health Act, they can instruct a mental health lawyer to represent them.
Often, they might not understand why they would have a mental health lawyer or how that professional can act on their behalf.
This can be a scary and frustrating time, particularly as they might not fully understand what is happening or why decisions are being made. Some people might feel that everyone is against them, but we want them to know they can trust us and that their voice is going to be heard.
Mental health lawyers can explain the process and help to guide them through the system. They know the law and can explain it in a straightforward way.
The Mental Health Act 1983
To be detained under a section of the Mental Health Act 1983 means you are essentially kept in hospital against your will.
Two doctors and an Approved Mental Health Act Practitioner have deemed it in your best interest to be detained so that you can be assessed for a mental condition and/or receive treatment.
The detention could be in the interests of your health, safety or necessary for the protection of others. You cannot leave hospital and can be given treatment without your consent.
To be detained, specific legal criteria must be met, and it is not unusual for a patient to disagree with the reasons for their detention. A mental health lawyer can ensure you are fully aware of the legal criteria for detention and your rights while you are in hospital.
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Right to appeal and tribunals
When detained under section you have the right to appeal and apply for a Tribunal to challenge your detention, if you disagree that the legal criteria has been met. You can also apply to the hospital managers to ask to be discharged.
Your treating team will meet with an independent panel, or panel of hospital managers and you can attend to speak to the Tribunal or review yourself. If you want a lawyer to represent you, they will ask your treating team questions during the tribunal or review and make sure that your argument is across clearly.
Benefits of instructing a mental health lawyer
There are many benefits to instructing a mental health lawyer. They can:
- Represent you for free under the Legal Help Scheme where you are detained under section.
- Meet you on the ward to understand why you’ve been detained.
- Provide professional advice to meet your best interests including leave, medication, and discharge options.
- Check whether your section is legal, complete application forms for you, review documents and reports and keep you updated on your appeal.
- Represent you at a Tribunal or Manager’s Review and put your evidence forward.
- Explain procedures, help you prepare for hearings and advise you on the outcome and next steps.
- Help you appoint an Independent Mental Health Advocate, if necessary.
- Help communicate with your treating team if there are issues you don’t feel comfortable raising yourself.
- Contact your nearest relative to make them aware of their role, if you ask them to and help you change your nearest relative, if appropriate.
- And explain what happens when your section ends and provide ongoing support, after care and what care plan you may be entitled to.
One of the main things to remember is that a mental health lawyer will not judge you. They are there to make sure the person concerned is fully aware of the legal criteria for detention and their rights while in hospital.
They will give the patient the best chance if they want to challenge their detention and can take a lot of the stress away from what is already a challenging time.