Comparison of coercive practices in worldwide mental healthcare: overcoming difficulties resulting from variations in monitoring strategies

Martha K. Savage*, Peter Lepping, Giles Newton-Howes, Richard Arnold, Vincent S. Staggs, Steven Kisely, Toshio Hasegawa, Keith S. Reid, Eric O. Noorthoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

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Coercive or restrictive practices such as compulsory admission, involuntary medication, seclusion and restraint impinge on individual autonomy. International consensus mandates reduction or elimination of restrictive practices in mental healthcare. To achieve this requires knowledge of the extent of these practices.

We determined rates of coercive practices and compared them across countries.MethodWe identified nine country- or region-wide data-sets of rates and durations of restrictive practices in Australia, England, Germany, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, The Netherlands, the USA and Wales. We compared the data-sets with each other and with mental healthcare indicators in World Health Organization and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reports.

The types and definitions of reported coercive practices varied considerably. Reported rates were highly variable, poorly reported and tracked using a diverse array of measures. However, we were able to combine duration measures to examine numbers of restrictive practices per year per 100 000 population for each country. The rates and durations of seclusion and restraint differed by factors of more than 100 between countries, with Japan showing a particularly high number of restraints.

We recommend a common set of international measures, so that finer comparisons within and between countries can be made, and monitoring of trends to see whether alternatives to restraint are successful. These measurements should include information about the total numbers, durations and rates of coercive measures. We urge the World Health Organization to include these measures in their Mental Health Atlas.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere26
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBJPsych Open
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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