Thursday 3 November 2011


Walking across the hospital grounds I overheard a couple talking as they returned to the ward.

He was saying to her how grateful he was that his Consultant Psychiatrist, ". . . had sectioned me that night, getting me into hospital," because he felt, "I right needed to, if I didn't I'd have been pissed and in [a nearby large city] and right violent."

The psychiatrist in me thought, how wonderful, he got the right care when acutely unwell and now has insight. But then I also thought, what a shame his Consultant Psychiatrist hasn't heard that and, probably, will never know. I also thought how great it was that he could reflect on it and freely talk through how being "sectioned" was a positive thing for him.

Although a formal Advance Decision can only define what treatment can't be given, he could craft an advance directive framing how he'd like future care to be orchestrated, which has no legal power but at least gives a steer as to his preferences, should the situation arise again. It could either be a discrete statement or part of a wellness recovery action plan (WRAP).

I was mildly piqued by the glib "being sectioned" phrase, but that's because in my training that was seen to be a cardinal sin. Detention under the MHA 1983 is a formal, serious business and "I'd section" a patient was seen as a careless, casual, trite comment at variance with the import and formality of the act. We were also scolded over how inaccurate that is, since doctors can't detain patients, we only make recommendations which ASW/now AMHPs choose to accept or decline, with hospital managers receipting the paperwork and then they formally detain the patient. But that's a personal foible I've hung on to, and labour over with my trainees, so in the cold light of day I'll concede that I shouldn't really be piqued that a patient talks of "being sectioned" instead of "being formally detained under the Mental Health Act 1983."

That was my moment of pondering today . . . hearing a patient's comment, thinking of the positive, thinking of his possible futures, thinking of the terminology used and thinking how he was expressing being grateful for the care he'd received.

Odd how but a few moments of snatched conversation can stir thoughts!