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Voluntary commitment or voluntary admission is the act or practice of a person being admitted to a psychiatric hospital, or other mental health facility, voluntarily, and without the process of involuntary commitment. Unlike in involuntary commitment the person is free to leave the hospital against medical advice, though a period of notice, or the requirement that the leaving take place during daylight hours, is sometimes required.

In some jurisdictions a distinction is drawn between formal and informal voluntary commitment, and this may have an effect on how much notice the individual must give before leaving the hospital. This period may be used for the hospital to use involuntary commitment procedures against the patient. People with mental illness can write psychiatric advance directives in which they can, in advance, consent to voluntary admission to a hospital and thus avoid involuntary commitment.

In the UK, people who are admitted to hospital voluntarily are referred to either as voluntary patients or informal patients. These people are free to discharge against medical advice, unless it is felt that they are at immediate risk, then a doctor can use mental health law to hold people in the hospital for up to 72 hours.[1] People who are detained by mental health law are referred to formal patients.

As Reber and Reber point out:

The term is used as a euphemism in the many borderline instances in which an individual is told by the appropriate authorities that either he or she request 'voluntary' admission or a court order will be sought to impose admission[2]


  1. In England and Wales this is authorised under Section 5 of the Mental Health Act 1983
  2. Reber, A.S & Reber, E.S. (2001). Dictionary of Psychology. London. Penguin.
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