Q: My brother has suffered mental illness for many years. His son and his wife have both died in the past twelve months and I think this has affected him far more badly than he realises. I am currently visiting him every week because I am so worried about him. I think he needs to be admitted to hospital for treatment as I believe he is a danger to himself, but he won’t discuss it. His wife always took responsibility for him when his mental health deteriorated in the past, but now he has no-one. Is there anything I can do?
A: One of the peculiarities of mental illness is that often, the more ill a person is the less they themselves recognise it. So having the power to get a family member assessed can be important. This is why when someone is so ill that they need care in a psychiatric hospital, their Nearest Relative (NR) has the right under the Mental Health Act s13(4) to request an assessment by Social Services.
The patient does not get to choose which family member will be their NR; this is set out in a list at section 26 of the Act. Top of the list is a spouse or partner, followed by sons and daughters over 18, parents and then siblings. The NR is the oldest in each category. It may be therefore that you are the NR.
You should request that an assessment be carried out by social services as soon as possible. If they decide not to carry out an assessment they must tell you in writing why they haven’t. If you need help or guidance you should make an appointment with a solicitor who specialises in Mental Health Law.