Following National MP Jami-Lee Ross being sectioned to an Auckland mental health unit earlier this week, the Herald looked into the rules around detaining someone against their will.

In New Zealand a person's right to refuse treatment can be overridden under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act.

Legally, a person may be ordered to have a compulsory psychiatric assessment and treatment if they pose serious danger to the health and safety of themself or someone else, or if they can't take care of themself.

Over 5000 people received a compulsory assessment or treatment in New Zealand in 2016, the latest data available.


Anyone over 18 concerned enough about another person's wellbeing can apply for that person to be assessed.

Each district health board region has a director of area mental health services, who after receiving an application must immediately organise an assessment examination, to be carried out by a clinician.

Police may be required to assist if the patient was still unwilling to co-operate.

There are two periods of compulsory assessment, during which a person's clinician may release them from assessment at any time.

If a preliminary assessment finds reasonable grounds for belief the patient has a mental disorder, they must be assessed and have treatment for up to five days.

After that, the patient could be subject to further assessment and treatment for up to 14 days.

At the end of the second period, if the clinician considers the patient as not fit to be released, an application for a compulsory treatment order must be made to the Court.

The court then determines whether or not the patient is mentally disordered and requires further compulsory treatment.



If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)

• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

• Youthline: 0800 376 633

• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)

• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.