Can I be sectioned?

I've been self-harming for 10 months and in the last two months I've been admitted to hospital 15 times. I've spoken to a lot of people, and I'm seeing a counsellor every week, but it's not helping. I'm really scared and I don't know what to do. I've nearly killed myself several times and I really need help. Is it possible that I could be admitted to a hospital for constant treatment?

It sounds like things have been really hard for you and being admitted to hospital so often sounds distressing. As you may know, self-harm is often a way for people to cope with and get through difficult emotions or situations and can be a means of communicating what cannot put into words or even into thoughts. It may also be a way of releasing painful emotions such as rage, sadness, emptiness, guilt or fear. Since it’s generally a private coping mechanism rather than attention seeking, some people may feel too ashamed or unable to admit to anyone what they are doing.

Thoughts of suicide can be very scary, upsetting and make you feel isolated. People often find talking to a close friend or relative helps. Although this may seem difficult initially, by sharing your feelings with them they may understand better and be able to offer you more effective support. Alternatively, some people find it easier to talk to someone they don’t know. If you would like to speak to someone about how you feel, without judgement and in confidence, then you can call SANEline. This is a mental health helpline for anyone concerned about a mental health issue and is available on 0300 304 7000 from 4:30pm to 10:30pm. Outside of these hours, if you are feeling suicidal, you may like to consider calling Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. If you would prefer not to speak to someone on the phone, Befrienders International allows you to search for various types of support in your country including email.

People are only usually sectioned if they are presenting an immediate danger to themselves or others, or are in need of immediate, intensive treatment. It’s possible to be referred for hospital treatment, but enter as an ‘informal’ patient on a voluntary basis, which means you would not be subject to detention and therefore would not be prevented from leaving when you wished. In addition, your consent would have to be obtained before treatment is given.

If you feel you would like to see a professional urgently, your local hospital accident and emergency department might be worth visiting. There, you will be able to see a duty psychologist who will then be able to assess your needs and assist you in finding the necessary support.

There are organisations specialising in confidential support in this area. You might like to consider visiting the website of the National Self-Harm Network an organisation providing support to people who self-harm.

It might also be worth making an appointment with your doctor (GP) as a step forward to gaining the help you need. There may be certain underlying issues surrounding your self-harming behaviour, such as anxiety or depression. Your doctor will be able to discuss the medical and talking treatment options available, such as antidepressants or cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

Answered by SANE on 30-Oct-2013

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