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Aggression, Seclusion & Restraint in Mental Health Facilities in NSW

New South Wales Government Country Resources Mental Health Legislation, Regulations and Implementation Guides Australia, New South Wales Legislation/regulation human rights, mental health facility, violation

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This document outlines the position of NSW Health about how staff working in mental health
facilities manage behaviour that can potentially cause harm.

Consumers with mental illness are sometimes admitted to mental health inpatient units to keep them and those around them safe. Mental health staff use a variety of different methods to maintain a safe environment including options such as counselling, time out, seclusion and a range of physical holds. Mechanical restraints involving equipment are rarely used.

Mental health units demonstrate preferences in the use of these interventions, e.g. some use mechanical restraint while others would never consider this practice; some use seclusion while others do not (Bowers et al, 2007).

While seclusion and restraint are used in some mental health facilities to manage disturbed
behaviour, others have found that these strategies can be safely avoided.
The NSW Mental Health Act 2007 [Section 68 (f)] states that “any restriction on the liberty of
patients and other people with a mental illness or mental disorder and any interference with
their rights, dignity and self-respect is to be kept to the minimum necessary in the circumstances.”

It is the position of NSW Health that clinical and non-clinical staff working in mental health
facilities in NSW will undertake all possible measures to prevent and minimise disturbed or
aggressive behaviour and reduce the use of restrictive practices such as seclusion and
restraint. When making decisions about strategies to manage disturbed behaviour, it is
important that health workers do not put themselves, their colleagues or mental health
consumers at unnecessary risk.


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