Mental health hospitals in Victoria seclude and restrain people at higher rates and for longer than national averages, against royal commission recommendations.
At least 7461 incidents of seclusion and restraint were among the 26,884 admissions to inpatient mental health services in 2020/21, the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council says.
Australia's three worst hospitals for use of mechanical restraint are Victorian. Two of these, the Maroondah and Box Hill hospitals, are managed by the same service, Eastern Health.
St Vincent's Hospital reported the highest use of physical restraint in the state, which includes "hands on" control of a person's body by one or more staff. Some critics have argued this is a breach of human rights.
On average, Victoria secluded people for 5.7 hours per seclusion in 2019-20. The national average is roughly five hours.
VMIAC CEO Craig Wallace said the data is concerning.
"This year's report highlights, yet again, that Victoria is lagging behind Australia in its use of seclusion and restraint," Mr Wallace said.
The Department of Health concedes there remains much to do.
"While we've made improvements when it comes to issues of seclusion and restraint, we know there's more work to do," a department spokesman said.
"It's one of the many reasons why we established the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System, to listen to the experiences of Victorians and build a new, more responsive and compassionate mental health system."
The report also found a large variation between different services, raising concerns around workplace culture.
For example, people in St Albans are 14.8 times more likely to be secluded than people living in Frankston.
However, it was noted some health services simply have a stronger reporting culture, and others have more experienced staff better able to consider safer alternatives to restrictive interventions.
Race and gender were also factors as the report showed people identifying as male are more likely to be secluded and restrained.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also being secluded and restrained at higher rates, which the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation said is concerning.
"Many Aboriginal people have complex trauma," a spokesman for the organisation said.
"We are concerned with this data and would like to know more on the reasons that drive this over-representation. A model of care that is focused on healing, social and emotional wellbeing and cultural safety is what works for Aboriginal people."
Seclusion and restraint are used to control a person's behaviour.
Seclusion has been likened to solitary confinement and is only meant to be used by health professionals as a last resort.
Restraint is a means of control and can include physical, mechanical, chemical and psychological methods. Reported incidents include the use of straps or other devices, drugs and threats.
Victoria's Mental Health Complaints Commissioner received more than 1500 complaints in 2019/20, up from the previous year.
In 2021, the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System made 65 recommendations to improve the healthcare sector, all of which the Victorian government has committed to implementing.
These include the elimination of seclusion and restraint within a 10-year period, repealing the Mental Health Act 2014 and enacting a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act.
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