Urgent work needed to address the use of seclusion and restraint in Victorian mental health services

21 June 2022

The Chair of the RANZCP Victorian Branch, Dr Astha Tomar, said recent reports, including one from the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) released this week, highlight concerns psychiatrists have been raising for some time around the use of seclusion and restraint in the state.

“The RANZCP has long advocated for governments and all organisations which provide mental health services to work towards minimising, and where possible, working towards eliminating the use of seclusion and restraint,” Dr Tomar said.

“Victoria has had a policy of reducing seclusion and restraint since 2013, but it’s clear more needs to be done if we’re going to achieve the goal of zero seclusion.

“We need a whole of system approach to drive down the rates of restraint and seclusion in the state – particularly the higher rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

“The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council report shows that rates of seclusion and restraint actually increased in 2020-21, which suggests that the broken mental health system is yet to start on a recovery path.

“We all need to be doing everything possible to ensure our system is able to provide safe, effective, evidence based clinical care to all who need it, especially the most vulnerable cohort of people struggling with severe mental illnesses.”

“One area, among many, that needs to be addressed ensuring clinical data such as that available from the Victorian Agency for Health Information and similar sources needs to be more accessible both to improve transparency and accountability in the system and also to inform planning of future improvement strategies.”

Dr Tomar said the RANZCP is seeking a commitment from the Victorian Government to implement immediate, practical steps to address the issue.

“The RANZCP Victorian Branch remains committed to supporting the urgent active work required in the space and in participating in any action plans.

“It’s critical we all continue to support the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System’s ambition and vision in this space, which should include immediate collaborative work between clinicians, consumers, carers and services to ensure we look at ways of addressing these issues urgently.”

“The impacts of restraint and seclusion on individuals as well as their families and staff, are well recognised. We need urgent action to address the issue in our state.”

For more information and for all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

In New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention.