What To Do If You Are Sectioned: Six Ideas From a Survivor by Jeremy Spandler

1: Choose your own ‘nearest relative’

I contend that it is best if your ‘nearest relative’ is the person you think is best able to treat you with unconditional positive regard. If you take no action, for the purposes of the Mental Health Act (1983) your nearest relative will be decided automatically according to a specified hierarchy, and it will generally be your ‘next of kin’.


You can apply to the Crown Court to change this but I recommend that you persuade whoever is in fact your nearest relative (next of kin) to write a letter to the person you actually want to take the role, delegating the power to them. (For details see www.mind.org.uk) This can be done after you are sectioned but you can do so in advance if you fear sectioning before it happens. This person may be able to help with practical matters (e.g., clothes, money) but their primary role is to support your actions.


2: Is it really a good idea to appeal?

You are able to appeal against your section, and this may seem the natural thing to do. However, you will spend your energy (and other resources, such as money) on preparing and worrying about your appeal. Instead, you might consider concentrating on persuading the Responsible Clinician (the psychiatrist) to discharge you from detention.


3: Write a letter to the Responsible Clinician

Your task is to persuade the psychiatrist that you have insight into your condition, and that the medication and other actions you are willing to take will effectively control your condition. In my case, I agreed to take an anti-psychotic but not a mood stabilizer.


4: Negotiate on the basis of that letter

Your letter is the starting point for a dialogue with the psychiatrist, and she will have the opportunity to question the points you have made.


5: Treat nurses and care assistants with respect

By all means ask for information about the medications you are told to take, and also the reasons you have been told the take them, including the expected side effects. But once you have made a decision not to take a medication, simply refuse politely: e.g., say ‘I will take xxx mg of Quietepine XL at night but I refuse the rest.’ Although officials are able to force treatment upon you, under the detaining and treating powers of the 1983 Mental Health Act, if you have explained your thinking in the letter it is unlikely that such measures will be taken.


6: Use your time in hospital effectively

Think about your medium- and long-term goals – for example, whether you want to seek promotion at work, the future of your relationships, your next holiday or what you are going to do at Christmas. But try not to think about the time before your section runs out. This is not easy, but I assure you will only get frustrated. Good luck!


A member of the Asylum collective suggests that we should point out that although very helpful for Jeremy and possibly many others, some of his tips may not apply to everyone who gets sectioned. For example, ‘Write a letter to your Responsible Clinician’. From personal experience of sectioning, she can say positively that at least in the first few weeks of her detention she was heavily drugged-up and not really able to think, let alone write a letter with a coherent argument.

Writing a letter by herself was out of the question, and also for most of the other people on her ward who were sectioned. Perhaps if she had had a mental health advocate, the two of them could possibly have composed a letter. Otherwise, she recognises that she was too distressed, and unable to think and reason very well.


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