Manitoba's Mental Health Act

The Mental Health Act of Manitoba sets out in law the admission and treatment requirements for patients in psychiatric facilities. The Act also applies to individuals on leave from a facility as well as individuals under Orders of Committeeship living in the community.

The Act aims to strike a balance between two sets of principles:

  • the rights given to all citizens under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and,
  • society’s obligation to provide care and treatment to those individuals who, at times, may not appreciate their need for treatment due to their mental illness.

For the purposes of this Act, mental disorder means "a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgement, behaviour, capacity to recognize reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, but does not include a disorder due exclusively to a mental disability as defined in "The Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disability Act".

Voluntary Admission

A person may be admitted to a psychiatric facility as a voluntary patient if in the admitting physician's opinion the person is suffering from a mental disorder and needs psychiatric asessment and treatment of a kind that can be provided only in a facility.

To be admitted as a voluntary patient, the person must consent to the admission and must be mentaly competent to do so in the opinion of the admitting physician.

Involuntary Admission

If a person believes his or her family member or friend requires admission to a psychiatric facility in Manitoba, he or she must first make arrangements for the friend or family member to be seen by a physician for a medical examination. Usually, this is done by taking the family member or friend to his or her general practitioner, or, if they don’t have one, to a walk-in clinic, to an Urgent Care Centre (Winnipeg) or in more urgent situations, to the emergency room of a general hospital for an examination. The second most common option is to go before a Justice for the Province of Manitoba to apply for an order to have the family member or friend undergo an involuntary medical examination. Where the urgency of the situation prohibits the first two options, the police have the authority to take the family member or friend for an involuntary medical examination, if they believe the circumstances warrant doing so.

If the physician believes that an involuntary psychiatric assessment is warranted, the individual is then sent to a psychiatrist for an assessment.

In order for an individual to be involuntarily admitted, the medical opinions of the physician and the psychiatrist must concur.

Order of Events for an Involuntary Admission:

Judicial Order
Medical Examination
arrow Involuntary Psychiatric Assessment (Psychiatrist)
Police Action

The Mental Health Act outlines specific criteria that must be satisfied in order for a psychiatrist to recommend involuntary admission. According to the Act, the psychiatrist must be of the opinion that the person:

  • is suffering from a mental disorder;
  • because of the mental disorder,
    1. is likely to cause serious harm to himself or herself or to another person, or to suffer substantial mental or physical deterioration if not detained in a facility, and
    2. needs continuing treatment that can reasonably be provided only in a facility; and
  • cannot be admitted as a voluntary patient because he or she refuses or is not mentally competent to consent to a voluntary admission.

Based on these criteria, if the psychiatrist and the general practitioner agree that the person should be involuntarily admitted, an Involuntary Admission Certificate is issued that permits detention for up to 21 days. The patient is assessed on an on-going basis and the psychiatrist makes a recommendation about the length of stay required. If the psychiatrist determines the patient should continue to be admitted, a Renewal Certificate must be issued every 3 months.

Mental Health Review Board

The quasi-judicial Mental Health Review Board may set up panels to hear appeals regarding whether or not:

  • the patient should be involuntary;
  • the patient is mentally competent to make treatment decisions;
  • the facility should comply with wishes that the patient expressed in a health care directive when administering treatment;
  • the patient is competent to manage property;
  • there should be an extension to the patient’s leave certificate;
  • there should be a cancellation of the patient’s leave certificate;
  • specified treatment should be given to the patient; and
  • all or part of the patient’s clinical record should be withheld from the patient.

Applications to the Mental Health Review Board (Form #18 under The Mental Health Act) can be obtained at each of the psychiatric facilities in Manitoba. The Mental Health Review Board can also be contacted directly to obtain an application:

Mental Health Review Board
102 – 500 Portage Avenue
Business Hours:  8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Telephone: 204-945-6050
Toll free: 1-855-630-5362 
Fax: 204-948-2024

For more information about the mental health services available in your community, please contact your local RHA.


Users are reminded that the original Acts or Regulations should be consulted for all purposes of applying and interpreting the law. For more information, please consult the Statutory Publications Web site.