OBJECTIVES To identify attitudes about involuntary admission and treatment in mental health professionals and lay-people and to compare results between England and Germany. METHOD Three scenarios of potentially detainable patients were presented to identify attitudes. A questionnaire asked about attitudes towards involuntary admission as well as treatment. A questionnaire analysis was then performed. RESULTS There were similar attitudes towards involuntary admission and treatment between lay-people and mental health professionals with the exception of professionals not actively involved in the detention process. The different legal frameworks between Germany and England did not influence attitudes much. Support for involuntary admission and treatment broadly increased with age. CONCLUSIONS Psychiatrists and other mental health workers are in tune with society with regards to attitudes towards involuntary admission. People involved with mentally ill patients but not in the detention process have negative attitudes towards involuntary admission.