With the call for the ban of physical restraint in young children this week by National Mental Health Commissioner, Ms Jackie Crowe, after a 9 year-old Victorian boy suffered bruises and welts from being restrained face-down on the floor — the continued inclusion of restraint for children of all ages in the new WA Mental Health Bill is drawing strong criticism.
The Bill, now tabled in Parliament permits restraint with no age limits. Restraint includes the use of manacles, straps, belts, harnesses, chemical restraint (the use of psychiatric drugs to sedate) and bodily restraint by others (holding the person down, often to inject a drug or to force them into seclusion).
Ms Crowe said that children as young as 7 were being restrained in acute mental health units and that restraint caused physical and psychological damage and breached a child’s human rights.
Chemical restraint is not covered in the WA Bill at all, leaving its use without any safeguards. Only an oral order by a nurse, psychologist, occupational therapist, social worker or medical practitioner is required to restrain any child in a psychiatric hospital. Restraint can be for longer than 6 hours.
There have been continual calls for restraint to be banned across Australia including the National Mental Health Commission who covered the need to eliminate restraint in their 2012 annual report.
“Restraint is a deeply traumatic experience for an adult let alone a child. It has no therapeutic value and should be banned,” said Ms Shelley Wilkins Executive Director of the Australian National Office of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR).
Restraint has led to injuries and even death. Australian seclusion and restraint reduction expert Richard Newton said that restraint had a “devastating” mental effect and physical injuries were sustained by patients and staff in about 20% of restraint procedures.
Under the new WA Bill, if a child is harmed during a restraint, parents will have no rights to civilly sue the persons responsible for the harm unless the restraint was used in a person “suspected” of being mentally ill to prevent them leaving. Only the State can be sued.
CCHR was co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry Dr Thomas Szasz to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.
Contact: Shelley Wilkins 02 99649844