Voluntary and Involuntary Admissions

You can be admitted for in-patient treatment on either a voluntary or an involuntary basis. Voluntary admission usually means that you agree to being treated at an in-patient facility. A child is considered a voluntary patient once their guardian or parent agrees to their admission. Involuntary admission is when a person is admitted for in-patient treatment against their will. This might be because they are deemed to have a mental disorder and to be at risk of harming themselves or another person. Involuntary admission is relatively rare. About 10% of people admitted for inpatient treatment are involuntary patients.

The Mental Health Act 2001 and the Mental Health Commission

The Mental Health Act 2001 sets out procedures for involuntary admission. The Act promotes the quality and standards of treatment in mental health services. The Mental Health Commission, an independent statutory body, was set up under the Mental Health Act 2001. The Mental Health Commission aims to make sure that high standards of treatment are maintained; it aims to protect the rights and best interests of people using the services. When a person is admitted involuntarily, the case is reviewed by the Mental Health Tribunal. The Tribunal is made up of three people who are responsible for ensuring that the rights of the involuntary patient have been respected and that laws were followed in making the admission.

We’ve put together a list of sources of information on the Mental Health Act:

• The Mental Health Commission’s “Your Guide to the Mental Health Act 2001” is a booklet that explains the procedure for admitting patients involuntarily. It explains the circumstances under which someone can apply to have you admitted involuntarily and the steps everyone must follow when making an involuntary admission. It also explains what will happen once you are admitted to a hospital, as well as your rights as both a voluntary and involuntary patient.

• The Mental Health Commission’s leaflet “Information for Involuntary Patients” details what services the Mental Health Commission provides for involuntary patients. It also outlines how the Mental Health Tribunal works.

• The Mental Health Commission also has a “Reference Book for Children” and a “Reference Book for Adults”. These provide more detailed information on the Mental Health Act 2001.

• The www.headspaceireland.ie website has a toolkit for young people that aims to empower them in their care and treatment in in-patient centres. The toolkit can be used by the young person alone, or with a parent or guardian. The website also has a guide for young people on their stay at an inpatient centre, what rights you have as a young person and information on how the Mental Health Act 2001 relates to young people as well as explanations of commonly used terms.

• The Citizens Information website also provides information on your rights as an inpatient. For example, it explains how your money will be held in a patient’s private property account and must be used for your benefit.