Restrictive Practices


Professor Bernadette McSherry, our Foundation Director, leads a program of research to inform and guide the reduction and elimination of the use of restrictive practices in the mental health, disability and aged care sectors.

Seclusion and different forms of restraint are currently permitted for use in these sectors to control or manage a person’s behaviour. Restraint may also be also used in prisons, remand centres, emergency departments and by police and emergency transport providers.

Negative effects of restrictive practices can include psychological and physical harm, damage to the therapeutic relationship, and violations of human rights. Policy-makers, academics, mental health practitioners, consumers and carers increasingly recognise the need to reduce and, where possible, eliminate seclusion and restraint.

National seclusion and restraint project

In 2013 the National Mental Health Commission engaged the Melbourne Social Equity Institute and an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Melbourne to look at best practice in reducing and eliminating the use of seclusion and restraint in relation to mental health issues and help identify good practice treatment approaches. The research team identified the factors that drive current practice in service delivery and evaluated how these factors can lead to best practice.

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Model laws to regulate the use of restraint on persons with disabilities

This project aims to address the current lack of a common legal framework for regulating the use of restraint on persons with disabilities in mental health, disability and aged care sectors.

Through developing model laws and guidelines, this project aims to support the Disability Ministers’ National Framework for Reducing and Eliminating the Use of Restrictive Practices and the National Mental Health Commission’s work on reducing and eliminating restraint. Its main objective is to benefit persons with disabilities by supporting government policies aimed at reducing, with a view to eliminating, the adverse consequences of coercive practices in general.

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