Overview

The Mental Health Act (MHA) allows for involuntary detention and treatment under certain circumstances.

There are rights set out under the act, such as appealing to a review panel, relating to people who are under one admission certificate, formal patients (under 2 certificates), and persons under a community treatment order.

Updates to the act

In July 2019, the Government of Alberta was given one year to amend specific sections of the Mental Health Act to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A public engagement was held to gather input from Albertans on ways to improve the act to better help people dealing with serious mental illness.

Read about the public engagement

The feedback was compiled and in July 2020 amendments to the act were proposed in Bill 17: the Mental Health Amendment Act. The amendments came into effect September 30, 2020, with exceptions. They will ensure the rights of mental health patients are respected and provide more responsive, accessible care.

Learn more about Bill 17 and the amendments

Read the Mental Health Amendment Act

Your rights

  • One-admission certificate

    Your rights under the Mental Health Act

    In order for you to be detained in hospital under one admission certificate under the Mental Health Act (MHA), a doctor must examine you and determine that all three certification criteria are met. If one admission certificate is issued, the facility has the authority to care for, observe, examine, assess, treat, detain and control you to determine if you should be admitted as a formal patient.

    One certificate is valid for 24 hours from the date and time it is issued. Under the MHA, one admission certificate expires at the end of the 24 hours unless a second certificate has been issued by a second doctor who has independently examined you and is of the opinion that the certification criteria are met, and you should be detained in hospital involuntarily as a formal patient.

    When the admission certificate expires, the doctor would then tell you that you are free to leave the hospital. The doctor may ask you to remain in hospital as a voluntary patient if they feel it would be in your best interest. If you decide to leave, the hospital will likely ask you to sign a form acknowledging that you are leaving hospital against medical advice.

    Rights regarding being hospitalized against your will (detention)

    You have the right:

    • to be told in person of the reasons for your involuntary detention
    • to be informed when your admission certificate expires or is cancelled

    Rights regarding your treatment

    You have the right:

    • to refuse treatment if you are mentally competent to make your own treatment decisions

    However, the hospital may control you without your consent if they feel it is necessary to prevent serious bodily harm to you or to another person. Control is the minimal use of restraint, including medication that is reasonable taking into consideration the person's physical and mental condition.

    General rights

    You have the right:

    • to contact and receive visits from your lawyer at any time
    • to receive visitors during regular hospital visiting hours unless your doctor thinks that a visitor would be harmful to your health
    • to confidentiality of all your health information unless the Health Information Act allows for the release of health information under certain conditions without your consent
    • to confidentiality of any communications written by you or to you
      • hospital staff cannot open, read, withhold or interfere with the delivery of your letters or notes
    • to contact the Mental Health Patient Advocate

    Brochure

    Download the One Admission Certificate brochure – also available in other languages.

  • Formal patient

    Your rights under the Mental Health Act

    If you are a formal (involuntary) patient and detained under 2 admission or 2 renewal certificates, these provide the authority to care for, observe, examine, assess, treat, detain and control you for a one month period from the date the second admission certificate is issued. Two renewal certificates provide the same authority.

    The first and second set of renewal certificates are valid for a period of not more than one month. The third and subsequent sets of 2 renewal certificates are valid for a period of not more than 6 additional months.

    Rights regarding being hospitalized against your will (detention)

    You have the right:

    • to be told (in person and in writing) of the reasons for your involuntary detention
    • to receive copies of your admission (Form 1) and renewal (Form 2) certificates
    • to apply to the Review Panel to have your admission or renewal certificates cancelled when you are being kept in hospital against your will. The Panel may or may not cancel the certificates.
      • The hospital will provide you with the name and address of the Review Panel Chair and the Application for Review Panel Hearing (Form 12). They will also provide any assistance you need to help you make the application.
    • to be informed when your admission or renewal certificates expire or are cancelled

    Rights regarding your treatment

    Competent patients have the right:

    • to refuse treatment if you are mentally competent to make your own treatment decisions. (The hospital may, however, control you without your consent if they feel it is necessary to prevent serious bodily harm to you or to another person. Control is the minimal use of restraint, including medication, as is reasonable and considers the physical and mental condition of the person).
      • If you object to treatment, your doctor may apply to the Review Panel for a treatment order. The Review Panel will review your situation and will either make a treatment order whereby you can be treated without your consent or the Panel will refuse to make a treatment order.

    Incompetent patients have the right:

    • to apply to the Review Panel to request a review of the physician’s opinion if your doctor completed a Form 11 Certificate of Incompetence to Make Treatment Decisions that states you are not mentally competent to make your own treatment decisions. The Review Panel will review your situation and will either cancel the Form 11 or will refuse to cancel it.

    Rights regarding the Review Panel

    You and your lawyer have the right:

    • to be present when evidence is given at the Review Panel hearing – unless the Review Panel is concerned information given to the patient may seriously endanger the safety of another person – and to question any person who gives evidence at the hearing
    • to appeal any decision of the Review Panel to the Court of Queen’s Bench

    General rights

    You have the right:

    • to contact and receive visits from your lawyer at any time. If you wish, you may arrange to have a lawyer assist you at the Review Panel hearing and at the Court of Queen’s Bench
    • to receive visitors during regular hospital visiting hours unless your doctor thinks that a visitor would be harmful to your health
    • to confidentiality of all your health information unless the Health Information Act allows for the release of health information under certain conditions without your consent
    • to confidentiality of any communications written by you or to you
      • Hospital staff cannot open, read, withhold or interfere with the delivery of your letters or notes.
    • to contact the Alberta Mental Health Patient Advocate Office

    Brochure

    Download the Formal Patients brochure – also available in other languages.

  • Community treatment order

    A community treatment order (CTO) under the Mental Health Act is a tool to assist you in complying with treatment and care while living in your community. The purpose of the CTO is to provide you with enough support and supervision that you can follow your treatment and care plan as outlined in the CTO.

    The treatment and care plan is tailored to your specific needs and may include requirements such as:

    • taking medication
    • attending appointments with, accepting telephone contact or home visits from, or receiving treatment and care from providers or the provider’s designate

    Rights regarding the issuance, amendment, renewal, expiry or cancellation of a CTO

    You or your substitute decision-maker have the right:

    • to either provide consent or refuse to provide consent to a CTO. In limited circumstances consent is not necessary where the physicians issuing the CTO believe that:
      • the person has exhibited a history of not obtaining or continuing with community treatment or care that is necessary to prevent the likelihood of harm to others; and
      • a CTO is reasonable and would be less restrictive than retaining the person as a formal patient

    You have the right:

    • to be able to comply with the treatment or care set out in the CTO
    • when the CTO is issued, amended or renewed, to receive a written statement of the reason and authority of the CTO, information about the Review Panel, and your right to apply to the Review Panel for cancellation of the CTO
    • in the event of a language difficulty, to be provided with an interpreter by the Board of designate and provided with the information and the written statement in the language spoken by the patient or the patient's guardian
    • to receive a copy of your CTO which includes information such as the treatment and care requirements, the name of the person who is responsible for supervising the CTO, and any reporting requirements
    • to withdraw consent to the CTO or request amendments or changes to your CTO if you believe that another treatment plan may be better for you
    • to receive written notice, along with any treatment recommendations, when your CTO expires or is cancelled

    Rights regarding treatment

    You have the right:

    • to receive the treatment and care outlined in the CTO
    • to agree to any treatment before it is provided regardless of whether the CTO was issued with your consent or without your consent
      • under a CTO, treatment cannot be forced on you, within certain limits

    Rights regarding non-compliance with the CTO

    You have the right:

    • to receive reasonable assistance from your psychiatrist or supervising physician to comply with your CTO
    • in the event that you do not follow the CTO treatment and care requirements, to have reasonable efforts made to inform you:
      • that you did not comply with the CTO
      • the need for compliance
      • the consequences of non-compliance – an order for apprehension and examination may be issued by a psychiatrist or designated physician if you continue to fail to comply with the CTO
      • the possible consequences of the examination

    Rights regarding the Review Panel

    You have the right:

    • to apply to the Review Panel to have your CTO cancelled – the panel may or may not cancel the CTO
    • for an automatic review by the Review Panel at the time of the first renewal of the CTO and every second renewal thereafter until the CTO expires or is cancelled, or if there has been an application for review within the month preceding any of those renewals
    • to be present along with your lawyer when evidence is given at the Review Panel hearing – unless the Review Panel is concerned information given to the person who is subject to the CTO may seriously endanger the safety of another person – and to question any person who gives evidence at the hearing
    • to appeal any decision of the Review Panel to the Court of Queen’s Bench

    General rights

    You have the right:

    • to arrange to have a lawyer assist you at the Review Panel hearing and at the Court of Queen’s Bench
    • to contact and receive visits from your lawyer at any time should you be taken to a facility for examination due to non-compliance with the CTO
    • to confidentiality of all your health information unless the Health Information Act allows for the release of health information under certain conditions without your consent
    • to contact the Mental Health Patient Advocate

    Brochure

    Download the Community Treatment Orders brochure – also available in other languages.