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Involuntary admission: being admitted to hospital against your will

In certain circumstances, you may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment of your mental health.

In most cases, people go to hospital by choice and this is called a 'voluntary admission'. If you feel you need a hospital admission, you may discuss this with your GP or psychiatrist. 

An ‘involuntary admission’ is when you are admitted to hospital against your will.

The Mental Health Act 2001 covers involuntary admissions.

When an involuntary admission can happen

Involuntary admission can only happen if you are not willing to go into hospital and have 1 of the following conditions:

  • a mental illness
  • significant intellectual disability
  • severe dementia

One or more of the following things must also apply:

  • There is a risk you may cause serious harm to yourself or others.
  • Your judgement is so impaired that you need treatment that is only available in a hospital.
  • Your condition could get worse if you do not get the treatment that you need.

When an involuntary admission cannot happen

There must be 1 of the conditions listed in the previous section to justify an involuntary admission.

An involuntary admission cannot happen solely on the basis that you:

  • are addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • have a diagnosis of a personality disorder or social deviance

How an involuntary admission happens

There are 3 stages:

  1. Application
  2. Medical assessment
  3. Psychiatric assessment


A concerned person applies to a medical professional (usually a GP) to have you assessed. The concerned person must have seen you in the last 48 hours.

This concerned person must be over 18 and one of the following:

  • a relative or spouse
  • an authorised officer who is an employee of the HSE
  • a member of the Gardaí
  • a concerned member of the public — any other concerned person

Medical assessment

The medical professional must examine you within 24 hours of getting the application. They may recommend that you are admitted to hospital.

Psychiatric assessment

A consultant psychiatrist in the hospital will examine you within 24 hours. If they decide you need to be admitted and you're not willing to stay, you will be admitted against your will.

Other circumstances for involuntary admission

You may be in hospital voluntarily and decide to leave the hospital against the advice of staff.

The consultant psychiatrist, nurse or doctor may then decide to keep you in for up to 24 hours. This gives time for an independent examination by another consultant psychiatrist.

Depending on the outcome, you might be admitted against your will to the hospital — or be free to leave.

Your rights

The Mental Health Act 2001 protects your rights.

Mental health tribunal

The Mental Health Commission will refer your case to a mental health tribunal. They will provide you with a solicitor free of charge. The solicitor will visit you. They will help you prepare for your mental health tribunal hearing.

The tribunal will appoint an independent consultant psychiatrist who works for the Mental Health Commission.

They will:

  • talk to you about your case and re-examine you
  • review your clinical file
  • interview the original consultant psychiatrist

Each mental health tribunal has a:

  • chairperson — a barrister or a solicitor
  • consultant psychiatrist — independent from the hospital and the mental health service
  • third person — a member of the public who is not a registered medical practitioner, nurse, psychiatrist, solicitor or barrister

The tribunal will look at your admission to decide if it followed the law. Tribunals generally happen in the hospital.

The tribunal decision

The tribunal will make one of the following findings:

  • the procedures followed the law and you need to stay in the hospital
  • your case does not meet the conditions for involuntary admission and you can be discharged. You may continue to stay in the hospital as a voluntary patient, if you want to


If you disagree with the tribunal’s decision you can appeal to the circuit court. You must do this within 14 days of the tribunal’s decision. Your solicitor will help you with the appeals process.

Related topics

What to do if you're worried about someone's mental health

Accompanying someone to mental health services

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025