Having a diagnosis of schizophrenia is a risk factor for involuntary admission to psychiatric inpatient care, but we have a limited understanding of why some patients and not others require involuntary admission. We aimed to identify the predictors of involuntary admission in first episode schizophrenia. We used validated instruments to assess clinical and socio-demographic variables in all patients (n = 78) with first episode schizophrenia from a defined geographical area admitted to a Dublin psychiatric hospital over a 4-year period. Involuntary patients (n = 17) could not be distinguished from voluntary patients (n = 61) on the basis of age, gender, living status, marital status, drug abuse or duration of untreated psychosis. Neither positive nor negative symptoms were useful predictors of admission status. Lack of insight was a strong predictor of involuntary status.