Rights of People Suffering from a Mental Health Condition

There are many laws that protect you from being unfairly treated because of your mental illness.

Human rights law is the foundation of every law, including mental health laws.

Human Rights Act (1998)

Your human rights are legally enforceable in the UK under the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 which integrates into domestic law the rights described in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

All public authorities are legally obliged to respect your rights and do whatever is in their power to protect your rights.

These are your rights:

  the right to life
  the prohibition of torture
  freedom and security
  the right to a fair trial
  the right for a family and private life
  no discrimination

 Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 protects disable people from unfair treatment and this includes people with a mental health condition.

The Equality Act protects you from discrimination because of your “protected characteristics”:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Gender reassignment
  • Religion or belief
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Illness & Disability

Mental illness may be considered a “disability”.

 Mental Health Act (1983)

The Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983 is a law in England and Wales which was updated in 2007. It describes the rights of people with mental health problems with regards to:

  • pathways into hospital, either civil or criminal
  • assessment and treatment in a hospital
  • treatment in your local community

Some people that receive impatient health care are considered informal patients or “voluntary patients” as they agree to be hospitalised. Other people are detained under the Mental Health Act (“sectioned”) to protect them or others from harm. When sectioned, people lose some of their rights, including their freedom to leave the hospital if they wish.

Mental Capacity Act (2005)

The Mental Capacity Act law will assume you have capacity, unless a mental capacity assessment shows you don’t.

  • When you have lost capacity all decisions made for you should be made in your best interests.
  • Your liberty can only be taken away from you in very specific situations.
  • The law calls this “deprivation of liberty” and this should only be used if it is the least restrictive way of keeping you safe or making sure you have the right medical treatment.
  • In certain circumstances you may have the right to get support from an mental capacity advocate. This is someone who can speak for you if you want, but does not have the legal authority to make financial or personal decisions for you.
  • Once you have lost capacity to make those decisions for yourself, the court can appoint a “deputy” to make financial or personal decisions for you.
  • The Court of Protection can also make a decision if there are any doubts as to what an advance decision means, or what an attorney under a lasting power of attorney (APA) or a deputy is allowed to do on your behalf.

If your rights are not respected

👉 Contact informally the public authority in question and raise the issue.

👉 If you are not satisfied with the outcome  you contact formally the public authority in question and raise the issue through a letter.

👉 Write clearly and concise with reference to your human rights.

👉 Contact the Health Service Ombudsman.

👉 Contact a monitor and/or regulator: Care Quality Commission or Healthwatch England.

More resources

NHS Choices
The NHS Choices website provides information in an accessible format for people with learning disabilities. Click on the link below to find a series of Easy Read factsheets regarding your rights under the Mental Health Act.

Equality and Human Rights Commission
This organisation provides information about discrimination and the Equality Act.

Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS)
This organisation gives practical advice and information about the Equality Act 2010 and discrimination.

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)
ACAS provide free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees about workplace relations and employment law, including the Equality Act 2010.

Citizens Advice
This registered charity offers confidential advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free, regarding benefits, housing, family, work, debts and money, imigration, health, law and courts, etc.

Civil Legal Advice
This is a government funded agency that deals with legal aid. They can do a financial check to see if you are eligible, and signpost you to solicitors who work under legal aid.