Does Going to a Mental Hospital Stay on Your Record? Good & Bad News

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Criminal Records | April 26, 2024

Does going to a mental hospital stay on your record and man asks while being discharged by a doctor and a nurse to the left from psych ward rehab at a mental hospital and looking at his public record on the right and wondering how long does a 5150 stay on your record and does involuntary commitment stay your record?

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Does going to a mental hospital stay on your record? The answer to that question can be a little tricky.

There’s good news, and there’s bad news.

The good news first. A stay in a mental hospital is part of mental and physical health medical records for a person, and as such, it’s typically protected under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This means that no one should be able to access it without the written consent of the patient. But, a record of the stay in the mental hospital will stay on a person’s health record for life.

The bad news is that law enforcement agencies are often ‘exempt’ from the confidentiality rules outlined by HIPPA, which means that medical records can be shared in certain instances, even without the consent of the patient.

The distinction is often very ‘subjective,’ leading many people to wonder if their mental hospital stay will be part of what appears on a background check.

The following guide examines the answer to “does going to a mental hospital stay on your record,” and explains when a mental hospital stay might appear on a background check, and how to ensure that health records stay private.

Screenshot of the Dept of Health and Human Services outlining the background of the HIPPA law concerning medical records, and the truth about does going to rehab go on your record.

What Mental Health Issues Go On Your Record?

Does going to a mental hospital stay on your record? Going to a mental hospital will show up on a person’s health record, but not on their permanent criminal record unless the reason behind the admittance to the hospital was criminal-related.

For example, if a crime was committed that led to the admittance to the mental hospital, this would show on both the mental health background check and criminal background check.

So basically, there are two ways to think about mental hospital stays:

  1. Was the stay related to an arrest or other police report, or criminal conviction or a court order? Then, yes, the stay in a mental hospital will be on the public record, and will show up if searched.
  2. Was the stay not connected to a crime, and simply done without law enforcement intervention? Then no. This stay is part of a person’s medical history record. It will not be public during a background check.

A person’s medical history isn’t cleared after a certain time frame, so a mental hospital stay will always be found on a medical record.

However, if the mental hospital stay was connected to criminal activity, these records can be expunged from public view, and are also shielded from many background checks after a certain number of years.

The following questions break down these facts into more actionable information.

Does Going To Rehab Go On Your Record?

What information can be found in a criminal record?

Going to rehab will not go on your criminal record unless the reason behind being admitted was due to a crime.

For example, if a person was court ordered to attend in-patient or out-patient treatment at a rehab facility, then that treatment (as part of the conviction or dismissed charges) will be on the public record.

Does Going To A Psych Ward Go On Your Record?

It doesn’t matter if the person at the mental hospital or psych ward has committed themselves voluntarily or involuntarily, it will appear on the person’s physical health record. Health records are confidential, meaning that all of the information or tests performed during this time are private…to a certain extent.1

Law enforcement personnel will have access to the mental health record if requested, and it is also often sent to the federal government Criminal Justice Information System that performs background checks for gun purchases.

Does Going To Therapy Go On Your Record?

Going to therapy will appear on a person’s record if the therapy was court-ordered. For example, if behavioral therapy is part of a person’s probation, the therapy may show up in connection with the criminal probation record.

But, in order to serve a subpoena to obtain a person’s mental health records, the subpoena request must also contain a court order. If a treatment center provides information without a court order, it could face legal consequences.2

Does A Wellness Check Go On Your Record?

A wellness check is when a third party requests police to check a person who may be considered to be a danger to themselves, a danger to others, or having suicidal thoughts. These police visits are often called welfare checks.3 The requests are typically made by someone close to the person in question, such as their family, friends, or colleagues who may be worried about their mental state.

Wellness checks can be used for individuals who have a history of psychiatric illness, suicidal thoughts, or instances of self-harm. But, many states have laws that allow anyone to call in a welfare check on anyone else, regardless of the veracity of the reason.

Since law enforcement personnel perform the check, a police record of the visit will exist, but in general, it’s not included on the criminal record unless police make an arrest as a result of the check.

Does Seeing A Psychiatrist Go On Your Record?

Going to a psychiatrist to diagnose or treat a mental illness will not go on a criminal record. However, law enforcement can gain access to a person’s mental health records, as they are exempt from the HIPAA confidentiality rules.

Furthermore, those who have been to a psychiatrist in the past or are currently attending treatment have no legal or ethical reason to disclose this information to their potential or current employer. The only people who may know a person’s medical history when seeking therapy or a psychiatrist are a healthcare provider or insurance company. Still, they are legally not allowed to release this confidential information without consent.4

Does Involuntary Commitment Appear On A Background Check? (5150 Record)

Commitment to a psychiatric ward, whether it is voluntary or involuntary admittance, doesn’t go on a person’s background check. However, admittance into a psychiatric ward to receive medical help will appear on a person’s medical record.

One thing to keep in mind is that those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution or those who are a danger to themselves or others will be prohibited from buying guns.5,6
These government requirements state that if a person has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution, this shows they did not voluntarily check themselves into a facility — and prohibits them from purchasing or owning firearms.7

An involuntary commitment will show up on a criminal record if the commitment was connected to a criminal act.

Some additional questions that may be asked about what will go on a background check include:

Basically, the involuntary commitment won’t show up on a background check, unless it’s connected to criminal incidents like the ones listed above, and others.

Does Going To A Mental Hospital Stay On Your Record?

Going to a mental hospital will not show up on a person’s criminal record. Still, it can prevent a person from purchasing a gun in their state if they were involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.8

Furthermore, going to a mental hospital, regardless of voluntary or involuntary commitment, will appear on a person’s mental health record for life.

Individuals who have been to a mental hospital before might need to take into consideration how this can affect future employment in specific jobs, such as government or military positions.

HIPPA screenshot of FAQs about does going to a psych ward go on your record.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, no one is required to tell future employers about time spent in a mental hospital. If the employer questions the individual about their stay, they are not allowed to ask for details (ex: when, why, how long, etc.). However, some positions, such as government, military, or law enforcement jobs, may disqualify a person for long-term care by a mental health professional.9

Does a Section 12 Stay On Your Record? (Does Involuntary Commitment Stay Your Record)

A Section 12 is when a person is “forcefully” committed to a mental health institution and involuntarily hospitalized. These can occur if the person is a threat to themselves, a danger to others, or unable to care for themselves.

During this time, the person can sign a voluntary “CV” stating they wish to be in the facility, or submit a “3-Day” form that states they want to be discharged after three days.10

The paperwork regarding this stay is kept in a person’s permanent medical record. Three different types of statutes can be included in an individual’s medical record: section 12, voluntary admission, or conditional voluntary admission.

What Does It Mean To Be Committed To A Mental Institution?

In most states, it is legally admissible to be involuntarily committed to a mental institution if the person meets the criteria set forth by the specific state (i.e.harm to themselves or others).11

Rights screenshot of admittance and discharge from Massachusetts mental health hospitals including emergency section 12 committments and a person's right, but does a section 12 stay on your record? Yes, the health record.

The process of being committed to a mental institution typically involves either emergency detention, observational institutionalization, or extended commitment.12

  • Emergency Detention — This type of commitment involves seeking immediate psychiatric help initiated by a third party concerned for the individual’s well-being and mental state. This is a short-term solution, like Section 12, that helps a person through immediate mental issues but can be extended.
  • Observational Institutionalization — Hospital staff may recognize concerning behavior from a patient and choose to keep them for observation to prevent harm to themselves or others. The time frame of this commitment varies by state, with some states having a short time of 48 hours to other states offering 6-month periods.
  • Extended Commitment — Extended commitment requires a third-party source to apply for one about another individual. If a third party has expressed concern, and a mental health professional or doctor has confirmed a person’s diagnosis, the individual in question can be committed to a mental health hospital.

Where Can I Find My Mental Health Records And Mental Health History?

Individuals can find their mental health records by contacting their doctor’s office, using a personal representative to examine mental health records, or contacting HIPAA. Knowing the differences between mental health records and psychotherapy notes can be helpful in understanding how to get the required records or history.

Suppose a doctor denies the request for records? In that case, individuals can ask for a third-party review of the denial according to the HIPAA regulations. Lastly, an individual can work with a lawyer to have the doctor or healthcare professional release records directly to the legal representative.13

How Can I Remove A 5150 From The Record?

A 5150 cannot be expunged from a person’s psychiatric or mental health record. However, a person’s mental health records are confidential and cannot be shared with others without consent.

Although a mental hospital stay will appear on a person’s mental health record check for life, it will not appear on a normal employment background check. Does going to a mental hospital stay on your record…it stays on your health record but doesn’t show up on your criminal record unless it’s being used by law enforcement.

Frequently Asked Questions About Does Going Into A Mental Hospital Stay On Your Record

How Long Does A 5150 Stay On Your Record?

Does a 72 hour hold go on your record (also known as Code 5150)?

A 5150 will be on a person’s permanent medical record for the rest of their life but does not appear on criminal records unless the involuntary commitment was connected to a criminal act.

What Happens When You're In A Mental Hospital?

The process involves admission to a facility, immediate treatment, and potential transition to longer-term care depending on the responsiveness to treatment.

Does Going To A Mental Hospital Stay On Your Record UK?

A mental hospital stay will stay in the person’s NHS or social care service record.

Does A 72-Hour Hold Go On Your Record?

A 72-hour hold, will not go on a person’s criminal record but will stay on their mental health record unless it was connected to a criminal act. The criminal act, arrest, and police report can be found on the criminal record search.

Does Going To A Mental Hospital Stay On Your Record: Reddit Answers?

Going to a mental hospital stay will appear on the health record to help with any future mental health issues or insurance concerns about medical treatment in the future.

Does Going To A Mental Hospital Cost Money?

Checking in to a mental hospital will cost money, especially for those who are uninsured. The average price of immediate mental health treatment is approximately $9,293 for a one-week stay.14

Does The Military Check Your Mental Health Records?

The military will check a person’s mental health records and administer mental health exams during recruitment or when performing security clearance background checks.

How Long Does A 5150 Stay On Your Record?

A 5150 will be on a person’s medical health records indefinitely.

Does Seeing A Psychiatrist Go On Your Record?

Mental health records are confidential, meaning seeing a psychiatrist will not appear on a non-medical background check.

How Do You Get Out Of A 72 Hour Hold?

A person will sign a paper on admittance stating they either want to be released after three days or voluntarily commit themselves for longer. After the 3 days, the hospital will determine if the person is safe to be discharged.

Is A 5150 On Your Background Check?

Since a 5150 is not considered an arrest, it will not appear on a person’s criminal background check, as this information is protected by a person’s confidentiality.

Does Going To A Mental Hospital Stay On Your Record For Good?

Going to a mental hospital stay will appear on a person’s medical record for life but will not appear on their criminal record.

Does Involuntary Commitment Appear On A Background Check?

Involuntary commitment will not appear on a background check, but it can appear on background checks for buying a gun.

How Can I Find Out If I Have A 5150 On My Record?

A person can find out what they may have on their record by using a legal representative to contact healthcare professionals, reaching out to doctors on their own, or using a third party to contact the healthcare professional to obtain the records.

How Long Does a 302 Stay on Your Record?

A 302 code is used in Pennsylvania to indicate an involuntary commitment, and it allows law enforcement officers to take someone to a hospital without a warrant. It will remain on the criminal record unless expunged.

Does a Welfare check go on Your Record?

A welfare (or wellness) check may go on your criminal record if it is linked to criminal behavior.


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5New FBI Data Shows Mental Health Records in Background Check System Tripled Since Release of Fatal GAps Report Pressed States to Submit REcords of Prohibited Gun Purchasers. (2014). Everytown for Gun Safety. Retrieved from <>

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14Ungar, L. (2019). 5 days in psychiatric care led to a $21,000 hospital bill. KAISER HEALTH NEWS. Retrieved from <>

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