The Napthine government has called on hospitals and other health services to eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion on mentally ill patients.
Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge has announced $1.7 million in funding to reduce and, where possible, eliminate the controversial use of restrictive interventions.
”We need to do everything we can to reduce the use of restrictive interventions and we should have an objective of eradicating them. We know that will make a genuine difference in the lives of people with a mental illness,” Ms Wooldridge told health services staff.
Mechanical restraint involves using belts, harnesses, sheets and straps to restrict a patient’s movement; physical restraint uses force; and seclusion involves locking a patient in a room.
”It is clear from people who have experienced restraint and seclusion, people with a lived experience of mental illness, that they would like things to be different.”
Seclusion was used 4265 times in Victorian mental health facilities in 2011-12, while there were 593 episodes of mechanical restraint, lasting an average six hours.
The $1.7 million in funding includes $800,000 for health services to develop and implement strategies to reduce restraint and seclusion, and includes competitive funding for projects, a state-wide project team and a new framework to reduce restrictive practices.
One parent referred to in the new Department of Health framework recounts the pain of seeing her nine-year-old son restrained.
”It is the screaming that I cannot get out of my head … horrendous, intense and primal, while they were holding him down on the floor. The whole experience was just so dehumanising and just so wrong.”
The framework calls on mental health services to develop alternative strategies for front-line staff to mitigate situations and manage aggression.
The new Mental Health Act, which is being drafted and will take effect next year, will state that restrictive interventions must be used only after all other less restrictive options have been tried, considered and found unsuitable.
This article first appeared on ‘The Age’ on 20 December 2013.