Mental health

New law in force

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some of the information on this page may be out of date.

Making sure that people have equal access to mental health care poses particular challenges. The users of such services may be less able than others to articulate their views or to communicate the fact that they are unhappy with their treatment or feel they are being discriminated against. If you are using mental health services, you may be a disabled person according to the legal definition. However, health and social care providers should not automatically assume that you are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 when they make decisions about your needs, or provide facilities for you. Other legal duties may take precedence over the Disability Discrimination Act duties.

In cases where a person suffers from a severe mental health problem, and their doctor or other clinician decides that they should be detained or treated against their will, this is a clear interference with that individual’s human rights. However, such interference may be justified or necessary because the decision to detain or treat someone concerns not only the particular individual, but also the risk that they pose to themselves or those around them.

Decisions about detaining or treating patients suffering from mental disorders or from lack of capacity are governed by the Mental Health Act 1983, the Mental Capacity Act 2005, the Mental Health Act 2007, the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, and the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and are beyond the scope of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s remit.

You can find out more about mental health issues by contacting one or more of the following charitable organisations:

Mental Health Foundation


Rethink Severe Mental Illness

The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health

Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH)


Young Minds

Office of the Public Guardian

Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland

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