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0808 808 8000


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Your Rights

If you have a diagnosis of mental illness, you might be worried about experiencing stigma and discrimination.  You are legally protected from discrimination, and this page explains how.

We fight stigma and discrimination against people who experience mental health issues.

You don't have to take it.  

You are legally protected from discrimination and unfair treatment. 

If you want someone to help fight your corner, find out more about advocacy.


Your rights

  • Your rights at work

    Many employers will ask you to complete a medical questionnaire after an offer of employment is made.  Employers are acting unlawfully if an offer of employment is withdrawn if you disclose a medical condition on this questionnaire.   

    The Equality Act doesn’t apply to Northern Ireland, but you are protected from discrimination, abuse, bullying and harassment by other Acts.

    Should I disclose that I have a mental health condition?

    Although you might not want to disclose your diagnosis to your workplace, doing so means that they will be more able to provide reasonable adjustments, and will give you protection under the Disability Discrimination Act.

    Reasonable adjustments

    Reasonable adjustments are not, “special privileges” – they are adjustments which must be put in place to minimise the disadvantage your disability (ie, a mental health condition) causes you.  Examples of reasonable adjustments could be:

    • Extending flexible working policies to allow you to commute outside of rush hours
    • Being allowed to take time off work for appointments
    • Changes to your working area – for example, if you find working in an open plan office stressful or overly distracting
    • Allowing you to work at home on occasion if this is helpful
    • Temporarily re-allocating tasks you find stressful and difficult

    Find out more about what support your workplace can give you on the NI Direct website.

    Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

    You may not consider yourself to have a disability.  However, if you have a condition which has a significant, adverse and long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, it is likely you are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. The act also covers people who had a disability in the past. 

    Although the DDA doesn’t list conditions which are covered by the Act, if you have, or have ever had:

    • Schizophrenia (link to condition)
    • Bipolar disorder or cyclothymia
    • Psychosis
    • Moderate to severe depression
    • Generalised anxiety disorder
    • A personality disorder

    then you may be protected by the Disability Discrimination Act as these conditions are significant and have a long term impact on your life.

    What does the Disability Discrimination Act cover?

    Under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), it is unlawful for employers to subject jobseekers or employees with disabilities to disability discrimination. The law covers all aspects of employment from recruitment through to the ending of the employment and beyond (for example, providing employment references), including:

    • arrangements for recruiting and selecting new staff
    • terms and conditions of employment, including pay and benefits
    • promotion, transfer or training opportunities
    • work placement opportunities
    • disciplinary procedures
    • performance management and attendance procedures
    • dismissal or redundancy
    • occupational pensions
    • the way that the work is arranged and performed
    • the physical features of an employer’s premises

    Another important protection is that the law also outlaws disability-related harassment (or bullying) against people with disabilities in the workplace - that is unwanted behaviour, whether intended or not, that is related to disability and which causes feelings such as offence, humiliation or hurt.

    It can include behaviour such as name-calling, making fun of a person’s disability or making fun of people with disabilities generally.

    You can find out more information on the NI Direct website.

    What if I have been discriminated against at work?

    The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland provides advice if you feel you may have been discriminated against at work.

    It can also help if you think you have been discriminated against and want to lodge a claim at an Industrial Tribunal (employment cases).

    It also provides free advice and guidance to employers and service providers on recommended good practice under the DDA.

    For more information, contact the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland



  • Your rights if you're admitted to hospital

    If you are admitted to hospital, even if it is against your will, you have rights. 

    Most people experiencing mental health issues are treated within the community.  However, if you become very unwell or are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else, you may be admitted to hospital.  This could be either voluntarily (you agree to be admitted) or involuntary (you don’t agree but are assessed as needing treatment in hospital).

    What do in a crisis

    If you feel like you need to be treated in hospital, you can get an emergency assessment.

    There are three ways to have an emergency assessment:

    • by going to A&E at a local hospital
    • by contacting your GP or your GP out of hours service
    • if the police take you to a place of safety

    Places of safety

    A place of safety could be:

    • your own home
    • a hospital emergency department
    • a police station

    After an assessment, you will be referred to community services, such as your GP, or you may be admitted to hospital for treatment.

    Types of hospital admission

    • Voluntary (informal): This is where you consent to be admitted to hospital for assessment, and treatment if necessary.
    • Involuntary (formal): If you aren’t willing to be admitted to hospital but the assessment has shown that you are in need of treatment to avoid risk to yourself or others, then you can be admitted as an involuntary patient under the Mental Health Order.

    Mental Health Order (Northern Ireland) 1986

    You may have heard of the term, “sectioning”, or “sections”. This refers to a section of the Mental Health Order, which allows certain mental health care professionals to assess and admit people to hospital.

    This legislation sets out a framework for the care, treatment and protection of people who are experiencing symptoms of mental illness.

    If a person meets the detention criteria, they can be detained for an assessment period, which can last for up to 14 days. This is to determine if the person is suffering from a mental disorder that requires treatment in hospital.

    Can my family get involved?

    The application for assessment can be made by an Approved Social Worker (ASW) or the person’s nearest relative* and must be backed up by recommendations from two doctors, one of whom must be a psychiatrist.

    Following a period of assessment, you may be offered voluntary treatment, discharge or if necessary, may be detained for treatment for up to a further six months. 

    The role of the Mental Health Review Tribunal

    A patient detained under the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 and their nearest relative can apply to the Mental Health Review Tribunal to have their detention considered if this is justified. For more information on the Mental Health Review Tribunal, please visit the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service.

    New legislation in Northern Ireland to replace the current Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order, 1986.

    Currently, there is work on a new single bill progressing through our legislative process here in Northern Ireland which will ultimately replace the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order, 1986. The Bamford Review recommended the introduction of a single legislative framework for the reform of existing mental health legislation and the introduction of mental capacity legislation for Northern Ireland to include the enhancement of protections for those unable to make decisions and the embedding within the legislation of principles designed to protect the human rights of those with mental illness or a learning disability.

    The proposed The Northern Ireland Mental Capacity (Health, Welfare, and Finance) Bill is the first joint Bill to be introduced to the Northern Ireland Assembly, and was developed in part from the recommendations of the Bamford Review. It seeks to adopt progressive proposals to protect the rights of people with disabilities, when making personal healthcare, financial or legal decisions.

    If approved, Northern Ireland will become one of the first areas in Europe to introduce a Human Rights based approach to legislation governing this area; ensuring those with disabilities have as much involvement as possible in critical decisions affecting their lives.

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