Use of restrictive practices in mental health facilities continues to fall

The use of restrictive practices in mental health facilities is becoming less frequent, and when used, it is for shorter periods than in the past, according to new information released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Restrictive practices include seclusion (where a patient is confined alone in a room or area from which free exit is prevented) and restraint. Restraint can either be physical (for example, hands-on immobilisation techniques performed by health care staff) or mechanical (the use of devices such as belts or straps).

The report, Mental health services in Australia, shows that nationally, the use of seclusion has fallen between 2009–10 and 2017–18.

‘When reporting began in 2009–10, there were about 14 seclusion events recorded for every 1,000 days of patient care. In 2017–18, this was down to about 7 events per 1,000 days of care,’ said AIHW spokesperson Matthew James.

The use of mechanical restraint has fallen from about 2 events per 1,000 days of patient care to 0.5 in 2017–18, while the use of physical restraint has remained relatively stable, since reporting began in 2015–16, at about 10 to 11 events per 1,000 days of patient care. 

‘Working towards eliminating the use of seclusion and restraint is a policy priority in Australian mental health care, and has been supported by changes to legislation, policy and clinical practice,’ Mr James said

Today’s release also provides the latest data on mental health related spending. It shows that spending grew to $9.1 billion in 2016–17.  

‘On a per person basis, mental health spending rose in real terms from $359 in 2012–13 to $375 in 2016–17,’ Mr James said.

‘This continues a long-term increase, with spending up from $287 per person in 2006–07.’

‘In 2016–17, mental health accounted for 7.4% of recurrent government spending on health, up from 7.1% in 2004–05, but down slightly from 7.7% in 2015–16,’ Mr James said.

The report will be updated with the latest available data on mental health services progressively throughout 2019 and is available at <>.


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