How do I get someone sectioned?

A young women is stood outside on her mobile phone.

When and how do you get someone sectioned?

“I’m extremely worried about my brother’s mental state. Not only do I think he needs medical help, but he’s also becoming a danger to his child and pregnant girlfriend. Can I get him sectioned under the mental health act? It’s the only way he’ll get the help he needs.”

In answer to a young person’s question, we’re here to explain when and how to get someone sectioned and what the process of sectioning involves.

When should someone be sectioned?

It can be hard to support someone with a mental health problem, especially when the person you’re worried about doesn’t think – or realise – there is anything wrong. Nevertheless, if a person is becoming a danger to themselves or those around them, getting them sectioned may be the best way to protect them.

What does sectioning someone mean?

Sectioning someone means they would be kept in hospital or a mental health facility under the Mental Health Act, which basically allows for this to happen legally if they are considered to be dangerous due to a mental illness. There are different levels of sectioning depending on the circumstances, but in all cases the person can be prevented from leaving the hospital and given treatment, in some cases this can be without their consent. Sectioning usually lasts for 28 days, but can be up to six months. After treatment, the doctor in charge should assess the patient and allow them to leave hospital.

Learn more about being sectioned here.

How to get someone sectioned under the mental health act

Getting someone sectioned under the mental health act isn’t easy, first you’ll need sign off from three mental health professionals who believe it’s the right thing to do. The types of behaviours that can get someone sectioned include:

  • Attempted suicide
  • Hearing voices that tell them to harm others
  • Starving themselves to a point where they are a risk to themselves

Remember that even if you are able to get someone sectioned, if they don’t think there’s anything wrong themselves then they may not engage with their treatment.

Considering your options

The process of being sectioned can be distressing for both the person in question and their family and friends, so it’s important you consider the options available before you try to go ahead with it. If your brother does show signs of threatening behaviour and you or any member of your family feel in danger, you can call the police. Also, to learn more about how your local mental health services work, you might like to contact your local community mental health team (CMHT). They could issue a community treatment order, where your brother could get help without being detained in hospital.

Although it isn’t clear why your brother is experiencing difficulties it’s important to know that problems with relationships, work, money, and many other things can leave a person feeling emotionally and mentally unstable. There may be a loss of confidence and low self-esteem. The person may also become frustrated, or unable to manage their emotions, or even become very isolated and depressed. However, sometimes people do just become ill and it isn’t possible to identify a reason.

Voluntary treatment for mental health issues

The first step towards receiving treatment for any mental health issue is to approach a local doctor (GP). You may have done so already, but perhaps you could consider talking to your brother about doing this. Maybe if you or another family member offered to accompany him to the GP, for extra support, he may feel more comfortable about going. The GP’s job is to assess and help explore the support and treatment options available to the person in need. These might be in the form of medical treatment, such as antidepressants, or a talking treatment such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Learn more about the different types of therapy here.

It is possible to be referred for hospital treatment, but enter as an ‘informal’ patient by choice. In this case a patient wouldn’t be subject to detention and could leave if they wanted to. They would also have to consent to any treatment.

This situation might be isolating for you and your family, including your brother, his girlfriend and child. Talking about it and how you are feeling as a family may be helpful and enable you to understand and support each other more effectively. You could also talk to a close friend about it; it can help to off-load feelings to someone outside the family.

If you don’t feel able to talk to anyone you know about what’s going on you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000. An advisor will be able to give you the time and space to talk about how you’re feeling, without judging you or telling you what to do.

Check out the rest of our articles about supporting others here.

Next Steps

  • SANE offers support and information to people affected by mental illness. Call their helpline on 0300 304 7000, open 4:30pm - 10:30pm every day.
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.


MH treatment

By The Mix Staff

Updated on 03-Mar-2023