Psychiatric patients' views on why their involuntary hospitalisation was right or wrong: a qualitative study

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2012 Jul;47(7):1169-79. doi: 10.1007/s00127-011-0427-z. Epub 2011 Aug 24.


Purpose: To explore involuntary patients' retrospective views on why their hospitalisation was right or wrong.

Methods: Involuntary patients were recruited from 22 hospitals in England and interviewed in-depth. The study drew on grounded theory and thematic analysis.

Results: Most of the patients felt mentally unwell before admission and out of control during their treatment. Despite these common experiences, three groups of patients with distinct views on their involuntary hospitalisation were identified: those who believed that it was right, those who thought it was wrong and those with ambivalent views. Those with retrospectively positive views believed that hospitalisation ensured that they received treatment, averted further harm and offered them the opportunity to recover in a safe place. They felt that coercion was necessary, as they could not recognise that they needed help when acutely unwell. Those who believed that involuntary admission was wrong thought that their problems could have been managed through less coercive interventions, and experienced hospitalisation as an unjust infringement of their autonomy, posing a permanent threat to their independence. Patients with ambivalent views believed that they needed acute treatment and that hospitalisation averted further harm. Nonetheless, they thought that their problems might have been managed through less coercive community interventions or a shorter voluntary hospitalisation.

Conclusions: The study illustrates why some patients view their involuntary hospitalisation positively, whereas others believe it was wrong. This knowledge could inform the development of interventions to improve patients' views and treatment experiences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Coercion
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill*
  • England
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research