Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mental health foundation appalled by patient's detention...

Mental Health Foundation appalled by patient's detention...

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is "shocked and appalled" after hearing a patient was kept restrained in solitary confinement for nearly six years.

That case, and several others, came to light during a year-long investigation of detention facilities by the Ombudsmen's Office and was reported today in the New Zealand Herald.

Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem said the mentally ill patient at an unnamed district health board was often held in restraints in a bare room.

It was one of several disturbing cases of possibly inhumane treatment in facilities stretching from youth facilities to prisons in the Ombudsmen's annual report.

MHF chief executive Judi Clements said the foundation had long argued for an end to seclusion in mental health units.

"There is nothing that entrenches a sense of rejection and degradation more than being forcibly removed and isolated from other people. It is the very opposite to being valued and included."

She said cases like this showed the tendency for abuse to occur when vulnerable people were placed in certain environments.

"With resources only allowing for focused investigation of 15 mental health sites over the last year, we need to ask how many more cases like this are yet to be uncovered."

The health board in question had claimed the patient was secured because he was a danger to staff and other patients, but since the Ombudsmen's Office became involved he had been moved to somewhere more suitable.

"Why nobody thought to look at that and make that assessment before we arrived on the scene is a cause for concern," Ms Wakem said.

Health Ministry director of mental health David Chaplow said he was concerned to learn about the cases last night and would order an urgent report.

Dr Chaplow said there was now a "sinking lid" policy on seclusion, but it had a place in mental health care.

The report also outlined concerns about a lack of ventilation in some prison cells and said excessive temperatures could amount to "cruel" or "inhumane" treatment.

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