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What Is a Psychiatric Hold?

Nicole Madison
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A psychiatric hold is the detainment of a person in a hospital or mental health facility, often against his will. Usually, these holds occur because the party involved is considered to be dangerous to himself or others; they may also occur when a psychiatrist believes a patient is suffering a severe mental disability. For example, a person who enters a hospital and mentions suicidal thoughts may be detained for evaluation and treatment. This type of hold is most often placed on a person who has entered a facility involuntarily, but may also be used for a person who entered of his own will.

An individual can enter a hospital or mental health facility to voluntarily seek help. For example, he may do so because he is depressed, fearful, or struggling with alcoholism. He might think he needs treatment as an outpatient but learn that the facility's doctors believe he needs inpatient evaluation and treatment. In such a case, the facility may place a psychiatric hold on the patient, requiring him to remain in the facility for a minimum amount of time.

More often, a person is placed under a psychiatric hold as an involuntarily commitment. This can be because a family member or doctor has witnessed troubling behavior or as a result of a law-enforcement incident. Each jurisdiction may have a different procedure one must follow to commit an adult, but some sort of evidence is usually required. A court's approval is usually required when a person wants to commit a member of his family.

In most places, a psychiatric hold isn't something that is taken lightly. In order to detain a person against his will, a psychiatrist must believe that the person represents an immediate threat to himself or others. For example, if he is likely to commit suicide or kill another person, this might prove reason enough to detain him. Likewise, if a person's mental health problems are so serious that he can't properly take care of himself or seek assistance for his own survival, this may prove a reason for detainment as well.

Hospitals and mental health facilities are not usually allowed to detain a party indefinitely. Instead, they are typically required to release a patient after a 72-hour involuntary hold. Sometimes, however, these holds are extended to 14 or 30 days. The patient may have a right to a court hearing to determine whether or not a long-term hold is justified.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

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Discussion Comments
By anon998893 — On Sep 16, 2017

Some states take people to jail for a psychiatric hold, then not only must one pay bail to get out, they also must submit to quack doctors in the jail.

By SarahGen — On May 02, 2014

@serenesurface-- There is also something called outpatient psychiatric hold, where the patient is treated in a community center rather than at a hospital.

When people think of psychiatric hold, they imagine someone being forcefully locked up in a treatment center but that's not the case. There are people under psychiatric hold who are treated under much more relaxed conditions.

By serenesurface — On May 01, 2014

@fBoyle-- Of course, it's not as easy as it appears in films and TV shows. If someone has been admitted into a psychiatric ward by a court order, I think he again has to be released by a court order. So the court has to decide with testimony and evidence from doctors that this individual can live without supervision.

It's not easy to admit an individual into psychiatric hold and it's not easy to take him or her out of it. Before someone is fully admitted, there is usually temporary hospitalization or evaluation at a mental health facility to determine whether this person needs to be under psychiatric hold.

By fBoyle — On May 01, 2014

On TV shows, characters under psychiatric hold against their will are often shown trying to convince doctors that they have recovered and can be released. I'm sure the procedures to get a release from a psychiatric hold in real life are much more difficult.

Does anyone here know what needs to happen for someone to be allowed to leave?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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