Involuntary hospitalization, also referred to as involuntary commitment, is a legal process whereby a person is admitted to a hospital or other institution against their will, usually due to mental illness. In the United States, the process and requirements for involuntary hospitalization vary from state to state. The general purpose of involuntary hospitalization is to provide treatment to people who are in need and unable to seek care on their own.

The process of involuntary hospitalization begins with a petition for involuntary hospitalization, which is filed in court by a family member or other interested party. The petition must explain why the individual is in need of hospitalization and why they are unable to seek care on their own. The individual must also be informed of their rights and the process. Upon review of the petition, the court may order the individual to be hospitalized.

Once the individual is admitted to a hospital or other facility, they are evaluated by a mental health professional or team. This evaluation includes an assessment of the individual’s mental health, as well as their risk for self-harm or harm to others. The team then makes a recommendation as to whether the individual should remain hospitalized or be released. The decision is based on the individual’s risk of harm to themselves or others, as well as a determination of whether or not the individual is in need of treatment.

Involuntary hospitalization is an important part of the mental health system and is necessary in order to ensure the safety of both the individual and the community. It is important to note, however, that involuntary hospitalization is not intended to be used as a punishment or to restrict an individual’s civil liberties. Instead, it is meant to provide necessary care and treatment to those in need.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Involuntary hospitalization. Retrieved from

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2020). Involuntary hospitalization. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Involuntary hospitalization. Retrieved from

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