What Is a Psychiatric Hold?

A medical facility might put a psychiatric hold on somene suffering from severe depression.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 09 April 2014
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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.


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