To explore the mental health tribunal experiences of people admitted involuntarily under the Mental Health Act 2001.
Employing a qualitative descriptive study design, data were collected from 23 service users who had experienced mental health tribunals during a recent involuntary admission. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted ~3 months post-revocation of their involuntary admission order. Data were analysed using an inductive thematic process.
The majority of participants reported mixed experiences comprising positive and negative aspects in relation to information provision, emotional support and an inclusive atmosphere. Some participants reported receiving accessible information about the tribunal process, felt emotionally supported throughout, and encountered respectful and dignifying practices during the tribunal proceedings. However, many participants described experiencing non-inclusive practices, reported feeling ill-informed regarding the tribunal process, emotionally unsupported during and after the tribunal, and distressed by what they perceived as adversarial tribunal proceedings.
Systemic changes could ensure that the positive experiences encountered by the minority of participants in this study are more consistently experienced. Ongoing education and training of stakeholders in the provision of inclusive tribunal practices, and the provision of accessible information and emotional support to service users through the stages of the involuntary admission process appear likely to be beneficial. Service users should automatically be offered the option of having a support person of their choosing present during tribunals.