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Restraint - mental health legislation

Several different forms of restraint are defined in the Acts and accompanying regulations. The ACT regulations contain the only reference to ‘restraint by threat’.

Definitions of ‘chemical restraint’ are highly inconsistent, making comparison difficult. Depending on the jurisdiction, the use of medication to reduce arousal and agitation may be seen as an acceptable alternative to seclusion and restraint, rather than a form of restraint in itself.

The NSW Act has the narrowest grounds for authorising restraint: ‘to manage the risk of serious imminent harm only when appropriate, safe alternative options have been considered and trialled.’

Other Acts also authorise restraint on other grounds such as absconding, persistently destroying property and facilitating treatment. The SA Act has the widest grounds, although it is accompanied by a non-mandatory guideline that narrows them considerably. The Acts also vary substantially in respect to who may authorise restraint, who must be notified, and the length of time restraint can be applied.  

*The Qld Act regulates physical and mechanical restraint in different ways. Physical restraint may be authorised if it is the only practicable way to prevent harm (to patient or others), serious damage to property or absconding, or to provide treatment and care.

Disclaimer: These tables have been developed by the RANZCP as at 30 June 2017 in order to allow key provisions in the Mental Health Acts to be compared. They are intended for reference purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for legal or clinical advice.