Mental Health

People living with mental health problems are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The most relevant rights include:

the right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way;

the right to respect for private and family life, home, and correspondence;

the right to liberty.

Mental Health laws must comply with human rights. In Northern Ireland, mental health issues are covered by the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986. This Order covers the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental health condition.

The Disability Discrimination Act also applies to people with certain mental illnesses. This gives some added protections and rights. See disabled rights for more information.

Mental health practice must also comply with human rights. A small proportion of mental health hospital patients are compulsorily detained under the Mental Health Order. Article 5 of the ECHR contains a right to liberty. Detention can only take place where you have a mental disorder and it is necessary for your health and safety or for the protection of others.

Can you help with mental health rights?

Yes; the Commission has prioritised mental health rights. Please contact us

Who else can give me advice on mental health rights?

The Mencap Learning Disability Helpline is an advice and information service for people with a learning disability, their families and carers.

Telephone: 0808 808 1111


MindWise - MindWise supports those at risk of, and affected by, severe mental illness and mental health difficulties.

Inspire - Formerly the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (NIAMH), provides local support for those with mental health needs in locations across Northern Ireland (see website for details).

Children’s Law Centre - The Children’s Law Centre can provide legal advice and assistance and in some cases representation for young people with mental health issues.

Law Centre NI - The Law Centre runs a free specialist legal advice line for mental health patients and their families. The advice line is staffed by experienced legal advisers. Call 028 9024 4401, 9.30am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.