The Mental Health Act is the law which professionals use. The police can use a section 135 and 136 to take you to a place of safety for a mental health assessment. They can do this if they think you have a mental illness and are in need of urgent care. The police do not need medical evidence before taking you to a place of safety. The police officer needs to reasonably think that you are mentally ill or unstable and that they need to move you in the interests of yourself or other people. You can be on these sections for up to 72 hours until someone sees you and assesses you.
In my experience, the police have had to use these sections several times when I have been in times of crisis. You cannot refuse and if push comes to shove… you will be restrained and taken to a hospital or a place of safety whether you like it or not! 🙁 A section 135 is basically where you are taken to a place of safety from a private place which could be your home or a friends home. A section 136 is where the police can take you to a place of safety when you are in a public place which could be a street, restaurant or a shopping centre as an example.
There has been plenty of times where I have been at home or in a public place during crisis and the police have had to restrain me against my wishes and into the back of a ambulance or police car. In some cases, paramedics have had to call the police because I have refused to go to the hospital with them. There has also been times where I have gone into a ‘dissociative state’ and not even remembered this even happening. I can only imagine how terrifying and confusing this must of been for the person that was ‘out’ at the time. The police don’t really get much training in mental health as it is… yet alone dissociative disorders so sometimes it has been absolute chaos! It’s also not pleasant when you have 2 ‘scary looking’ police officers sitting in your hospital cubicle staring back at you trying to make small talk knowing that they will possibly have to spend the next few hours sitting with you… waiting for you to be assessed, watching your every move incase you try to do a runner or harm yourself. Sometimes, it’s not all bad and the police officers can actually be really nice and understanding. There has been times where they have actually fetched me a hot drink, borrowed me a cigarette and spent hours trying to make me laugh. I do respect them for this. Other times, you are not so lucky and I have had horrible experiences of been rudely spoken to and uncomfortable bruising from where they used more force to restrain me than necessary.
After being on a section 136 or section 135, three things could happen. These are:
- The Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) and doctors might decide that you need to be in hospital and section you using the Mental Health Act.
- The AMHP might decide that you do not need to be in hospital but that local healthcare services could give you more help. For example, they could refer you to your local Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) or contact your GP.
- The AMHP might decide that you do not have a mental illness or need any treatment. You are free to leave.
For me there has been a number of different outcomes. On some occasions I have been sectioned to a hospital and other times after being assessed, I have been allowed to go home under the care of my local community mental health team. Either way, it can often end up being a really long and stressful night for both the police and the person in crisis… regardless of the outcome. I have a lot of respect for the officers that are given no choice but to place people on these sections. Although you don’t realise it at the time, they are just acting in your best interests when you are unwell and unable to do this for yourself. The mind website provides very helpful information resources that are aimed at adults living in England or Wales who have direct experience of mental health problems. They cover mental health conditions, treatments, recovery, staying well and legal issues relating to mental health. You can find this information at http://www.mind.org.uk 😊