Involuntary commitment

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Involuntary commitment is the practice of placing a person to a psychiatric hospital or ward against his or her will, in compliance with mental health laws of the country. Commitment is normally time-limited and requires reevaluation at fixed intervals.

Most countries require a formal court hearing if the individual is hospitalized involuntarily more than briefly. Commonly, the commitment process begins when a law enforcement officer or a designated mental health professional determines that a person is in urgent need of psychiatric evaluation. If this evaluation indicates a need for further hospitalization, a court order must be obtained. Physicians, psychologists and/or psychiatrists present written reports to the court and in some cases testify before the judge. The person who is involuntarily hospitalized may be provided with legal counsel, and may challenge the commitment through habeas corpus rules.

There have been alternating trends towards the abolition or substantial reduction of involuntary commitment[1] via stricter standards for its imposition, and the greater use of involuntary commitment with more lax standards for its imposition. Alternatives include voluntary commitment in hospitals, and involuntary treatment outside of a hospital.


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