In the U.K (speciffically England) if someone experiencing a mental health crisis and non-specific suicidal thoughts attends A&E seeking support and coping strategies, whether that is advice or medication, could the A&E department apprehend them and prevent them from leaving for any period of time against their will?

What are the thresholds that must be proven or established to justify having someone kept for mental health reasons against their will?

Must their threat of harm to others or self be somewhat immediate or is a nebulous, distant thought or fear sufficient?

What other requirements must be met?

  • This is kind of a British version of this: law.stackexchange.com/questions/1332/…
    – GrimaST
    Feb 17, 2022 at 2:28
  • 2
    What is "A&E"? Also consider breaking up that single-sentence paragraph into more sentences, it's difficult to read as one giant run-on sentence.
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 17, 2022 at 3:23
  • 1
    @RonBeyer Accident and Emergency. OP is theorizing a case where the patient decides to bypass his own doctor and hopes to get a referral by showing up at emergency without actually being in a mental health crisis.
    – richardb
    Feb 17, 2022 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


If you have:

  1. a mental illness which needs assessment or treatment which is sufficiently serious that it is necessary for
 a. your health or safety, or b. for the protection of other people

  2. you need to be in hospital to have the assessment or treatment

  3. you are unable or unwilling to agree to admission.

Then you may be sectioned under the Mental Health Act and detained.

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