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Definitions for mechanical and physical restraint in mental health services

The National Mental Health Commission commends the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council for endorsing national definitions for mechanical and physical restraint in mental health services.

The key principles define restrictive practices as a last resort, while the dignity and rights of people accessing mental health services should be respected and supported at all times.

Reducing, and where possible eliminating, restrictive practices in mental health services has been a key national mental health safety and quality priority.

The national principles aim to establish a consistent best practice approach to support the goal of eliminating the use of mechanical and physical restraint by mental health services.

It is envisaged the principles will guide and support the development and review of detailed jurisdictional operational guidelines as appropriate across a range of service settings. The principles are intended to apply to all mental health services in Australia.

For more information visit National Principles to Support the Goal of Eliminating Mechanical and Physical Restraint in Mental Health Services

The Commission also endorses the document which outlines the national principles for communicating about restrictive practices with consumers and carers.

For more information visit National Principles for Communicating about Restrictive Practices with Consumers and Carers

National Seclusion and Restraint Project

In 2005, all Australian Governments agreed to act to reduce and where possible to eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint of people with mental health issues. Despite this, through our consultations, seclusion and restraint have consistently been raised as issues that people want something done about. They are raised by people with lived experience of mental health issues and their families, as well as service providers and policy makers.

The Commission is committed to best practice in reducing and eliminating the seclusion and restraint of people with mental health issues and to help identify good practice approaches.

The National Mental Health Commission released a position paper on seclusion and restraint in 2015, based on commissioned research.

Core Reference Group (CRG)

In 2013, the Commission formed a Core Reference Group (CRG) to oversee this work. The CRG is currently chaired by Mr Bradley Foxlewin and Prof Chris Ryan, and we thank Kath Thorburn for her previous co-chairing of the Group.

Members of the CRG include people with lived experience and their families, clinicians and people working in services, as well as human rights, legal and disability advocates.

View a list of the CRG members

How you can get involved

Sign up to the Seclusion and Restraint Declaration

In 2013 we launched the Seclusion and Restraint Declaration to encourage people to show their support for reducing and eliminating seclusion and restraint. We were encouraged by the response from individuals and organisations that have signed the Declaration and committed to being part of driving change. View the signatories here.

If you haven’t already, we encourage you to sign the Seclusion and Restraint Declaration.

Other ways you can get involved:

  • Display your Declaration around your home or office. Download the Declaration
  • Show your support via social media. Here is a suggested social media post.
  • Discuss the issues with friends, family and colleagues and encourage them to sign the Declaration. 

National Seclusion and Restraint Survey 

The survey is now closed. More than 1000 responses were received from the survey. Data collected from the survey will be used alongside focus groups and the direct input of people with lived experience, their families, friends and supporters as well as service providers, workforce interest groups and first responders. 

The results of this research will have important implications for policy development and will better inform the debate surrounding the use of seclusion and restraint. The Commission thanks everyone who told their story.


National Principles to support the goal of eliminating mechanical and physical restraint in mental health services 

National Principles for communicating about Restrictive Practices with Consumers and Carers

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