Seclusion and restraint for people with serious mental illnesses

Synopsis pending.

Authors' conclusions: 

No controlled studies exist that evaluate the value of seclusion or restraint in those with serious mental illness. There are reports of serious adverse effects for these techniques in qualitative reviews. Alternative ways of dealing with unwanted or harmful behaviours need to be developed. Continuing use of seclusion or restraint must therefore be questioned from within well-designed and reported randomised trials that are generalisable to routine practice.

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Seclusion and restraint are interventions used in the treatment and management of disruptive and violent behaviours in psychiatry. The use of seclusion varies widely across institutions. The literature does offer numerous suggestions for interventions to reduce or prevent aggression.


1. To estimate the effects of seclusion and restraint compared to the alternatives for those with serious mental illnesses.
2. To estimate the effects of strategies to prevent seclusion and restraint in those with serious mental illnesses.

Search strategy: 

Electronic searches of The Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (Issue 1, 1999) and The Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's Register (January 1999) were supplemented with additional searches of Biological Abstracts (1989-1999), CINAHL (1982-1999), EMbase (1980-1999), MEDLINE (1966-1999), MEDIC (1979-1999), PsycLIT (1974-1999), Sociofile (1974-1999), SPRI & SWEMED (1982-1999), Social Sciences Citation Index (1996-1999), and WILP (1983-1999). In addition, trials were sought by hand searching the reference lists of all identified studies and conference abstracts and contacting the first author of each relevant study.

We updated this search 10 May 2012 and added the results to the awaiting classification section of the review.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials were included if they focused on the use (i) of restraint or seclusion; or (ii) of strategies designed to reduce the need for restraint or seclusion in the treatment of serious mental illness.

Data collection and analysis: 

Studies were reliably selected, quality rated and data extracted. For dichotomous data relative risks (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated. Normal continuous data were summated using the weighted mean difference (WMD).

Main results: 

1. Effect of seclusion and restraint
The search strategy yielded 2155 citations. Of these, the full articles for 35 studies were obtained. No studies met minimum inclusion criteria and no data were synthesised. Most of the 24 excluded studies focused upon the restraint of elderly, confused people and preventing them from wandering or falling.

2. Prevention of seclusion and restraint
Work ongoing.

3. Update search 2012: the 2 new citations in the awaiting classification section of the review may alter the results and conclusions of the review once assessed.