The decision to place a person in a mental health care institution against his or her will is a very serious restriction of physical liberty. It can result in serious anxiety and humiliation.

Human rights say that this is detention. Therefore, such a decision must be carefully considered and it must be lawful. Lawfulness means that the involuntary placement must be allowed by law and is executed in a non-arbitrary way. Whether the placement is truly necessary in the specific case must always be considered.  

Placement allowed by law

Lawfulness means that the law clearly explains the situations in which someone could be placed in a mental health care institution against his or her will. The law must explain both the grounds of such a placement and provide a fair and clear procedure. 

In Latvia, the placement in a mental health care institution against one’s will is explained in the Medical Treatment Law. This law explains both placement and the procedure involved. 

Non-arbitrary placement

Having a law and procedures in place does not always guarantee that the best decision regarding a placement is made. In addition to being allowed by law, the involuntary placement must not be arbitrary. To avoid situations of arbitrary placement, the following things should be considered:

  • is there one of the following grounds for placement:
    - a person is a threat to himself or to the others, which can result in serious bodily harm or
    - a person cannot take care of himself/herself or the people he/she is responsible for, and left untreated his/her health may seriously worsen.
  • a person truly has a mental disorder or disability, which is determined by a competent authority and there is objective evidence
  • the decision of the court on placement in a mental health care institution clearly states why the person’s condition corresponds to the grounds specified in the Medical Treatment Law 
  • the authorities have not acted in bad faith – there are no hidden or inappropriate reasons for the placement
  • a person is held in a place that is truly meant for treating people with mental disability; in Latvia, this means a psychiatric hospital 

What human rights violation may there be?

If your involuntary placement did not correspond with lawful grounds or was not properly conducted and adequately justified, it can result in a violation of the right to liberty and security of a person.

Read more about the complaint possibilities.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education