Our societal fear of involuntary commitment is rooted in our “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” past, when innocents were warehoused in state asylums without legal protections and with little hope of release. But times and circumstances have changed.
Other nations have progressed to a “need for treatment” standard, which considers the potential for danger but does not require it.
Under the 1983 Mental Health Act in England and Wales, individuals can be forced into treatment if they have a mental disorder. Patients are examined by a licensed psychiatrist and a doctor, including one who has known the patient previously. If they agree that the person should be detained in the interest of his health, his safety or the protection of others, an order is presented to a social worker trained to determine whether commitment is warranted. Patients are held for up to 28 days before their cases are reviewed by a mental health tribunal composed of a doctor, lawyer and layman.