Confinement still used to control psychiatric patients: Study

Toronto: Providers of mental health services still rely on intervention techniques such as physical restraint and confinement to control some psychiatric patients, a practice which can cause harm to both patients and care facilities, says a new study.

The study found that almost one in four psychiatric patients in hospitals of Canadian province Ontario is restrained using control interventions, such as chairs that prevent rising, wrist restraints, seclusion rooms or acute control medications.

“The latest findings show that the use of restraints and medications as control interventions is still an everyday practice in inpatient mental health units,” said the study’s senior author John Hirdes, professor at University of Waterloo in Canada.

Healthcare providers in Ontario administer acute control medication to almost 20 per cent of psychiatric patients in order to manage dangerous situations, the researchers found.

“Control interventions are not ideal because they counter a patient-centred approach to care and can damage therapeutic relationships while further stigmatising patients,” lead author Tina Mah, vice president of planning, performance management and research at Grand River Hospital, pointed out.

The study suggests that earlier detection of illness or deterioration would help avoid patient crisis and minimise the use of physical restraint, sedation or seclusion.

In addition, healthcare providers should not use control interventions when a psychiatric emergency is not present, the researchers recommended.

The study appeared in the journal Healthcare Management Forum.