Involuntary psychiatric hospitalization in Italy: critical issues in the application of the provisions of law

Int Rev Psychiatry. Feb-Mar 2021;33(1-2):119-125. doi: 10.1080/09540261.2020.1772581. Epub 2020 Jun 16.


Involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation in Italy raises some critical forensic issues. We analysed the sociodemographic, psychopathological, and behavioural characteristics of involuntarily hospitalised psychiatric patients, and the effectiveness of the juridical procedure of guarantee. Case files (n = 2796) related to involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation (IPH) at the Office of the Tutelary Judge of the Ordinary Court of Rome (Italy) between January 2013 and May 2016 were analysed. For each case file sociodemographic, clinical and procedural information were collected. The sample included 53.7% men, patients had a mean age of 41.8 ± 13.9. Most of the IPH proposal certificates reported more than one reason, among which the most frequent were symptoms referring to a psychotic dimension (54.8%), agitation (38.0%), and symptoms of bipolar and related disorders (26.3%) Female patients showed a higher prevalence of symptoms of the bipolar spectrum (F = 29.7%, M = 23.3%; p < 0.05), while male patients showed a higher prevalence of aggressive behaviour (F = 7.7%, M = 12.6%; p < 0.01). Over 85% of the IPH proposal certificates did not explicitly mention issues related to adherence to care, which is the second criterium requested for IH (treatment refusal) and up to 7.3% of the proposals were not properly motivated. However, only 0.8% cases were not validated by the Tutelary Judge. Possible issues in the IPH procedures emerged since a significant number of certifications showed poor concordance with law- criteria for involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation. Despite this evidence, the low rate of unvalidated procedures by the Tutelary Judge, suggests a possible limitation of this form of guarantee.

Keywords: Involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation; provisions of law; severe mental illness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult