n South African Journal of Psychiatry - The use of restraints in psychiatric patients




Restraints are usually used for the protection of patients and others when medication and verbal therapies are insufficient to control potentially violent patients. Many fear the abuse of restraints as well as their psychological, physical and emotional consequences.

In South Africa, according to the Mental Health Care Act No. 17 of 2002, the use of restraints is permissible but subject to certain regulations. Restraint may not be used any longer than is necessary to prevent serious bodily harm to the patient or others. When restraint has the desired effect of settling the patient's behaviour to the point where control is regained, its further imposition is illegal.
Restraints may be classified into three main categories: (i) environmental restraints; (ii) physical restraints; and (iii) chemical restraints. There is much debate over what types of restraint are superior. There may be differences in cost, risk of serious staff injury, requirements of staff time for monitoring and implementation, and impacts on staff and patient attitudes.
It is hoped that the use of environmental and physical restraint will be rendered obsolete by advances in the field of psychiatry such psychopharmacology and the therapeutic milieu. In order to reach this goal more research needs to be done on restraint practices across a wide range of psychiatric treatment settings.


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