Mental health

We are all individuals, we all think and behave in our own way and react differently to stresses and strains. Some people might be lucky enough to go through life with hardly any problems but for most of us life has its ups and downs.

Sometimes it can be hard to deal with things, but with the right help, support and a bit of understanding it can be easier to cope with the difficult times.

What is mental health?

We all have our own thoughts about what being mentally healthy means. It is more than just the absence of mental health problems and can be seen as the way we think and feel about ourselves, our self-esteem, confidence, resilience and sense of control over our lives. Difficult experiences such as becoming a parent, bereavement or the end of a relationship, can challenge each of us, but there are things that we can do to look after our mental health:

  • developing and sustaining friendships
  • taking time out for relaxation and doing things we enjoy
  • participating in regular physical activity
  • having a well balanced diet
  • cutting down on coffee, alcohol, nicotine
  • celebrating the things we like about ourselves
  • keeping things in perspective
  • listening to and respecting other people
  • asking for help
  • taking as much care of ourselves as we do of the people we care for

There are ways to promote good mental health and the organisations below can offer support and information. 

If you are concerned about someone's mental health, you should share this information with their GP. Call 999 if an immediate response is required due to significant risk to the person or others.

The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 applies to people with a mental disorder, which can be defined as any mental illness, personality disorder or learning disability, however caused or manifested. The Act provides a legal basis to safeguard people when they are very unwell and can include powers to detain a person in hospital and to being given treatment when the person does not consent to this. The Act also ensures the person is made aware of their rights. Certain criteria needs to be met before detention can be granted. Information on the criteria can be found at each relevant section – as noted below.

What powers does the Act contain?

  • Emergency Detention (Section 36)
    • allows detention in hospital for up to 72 hours, if recommended by a doctor
    • a Mental Health Officer (MHO - social worker specially trained in mental health) should be consulted when possible
  • Short Term Detention (Section 44)
    • allows detention in hospital for up to 28 days if recommended by a specially trained doctor (psychiatrist) and agreed by a MHO
  • Compulsory Treatment Order (Section 63)
    • allows for treatment for a period of up to 6 months in hospital, or when appropriate in the community
    • extensions to the Order can also be sought
    • an MHO submits an application to the Mental Health Tribunal Services and all relevant parties would be invited to attend a Tribunal hearing
    • the Tribunal will decide if the order should be granted


  • participation
    • the patient has a right to participate at every stage of the process and have their views represented
    • the patient has the right to attend Tribunal hearings
  • advocacy services
    • the patient has the right to receive independent advocacy support at any point throughout the process, including attending the Tribunal with the patient
  • right to appeal
    • the patient and Named Person have the right to appeal the Orders, except an Emergency Detention
    • they also have the right to access Legal Aid for legal representation
  • Named Person
    • the patient has the right to nominate someone (over 16 years) to support them and protect their interests through this process
    • the Named Person has the right to participate in the process and attend the Tribunal
  • advance statements
    • set out a plan, in writing, about your views on treatment if you become unwell and were unable to clearly express your views at some point in the future
    • an advanced statement will be taken into account by the Tribunal and by any person responsible for giving treatment under the Act
  • Mental Welfare Commission
    • has a vital role in protecting the rights of patients under the Act