When a person is suffering from a psychiatric condition, he or she may act in a way that is not reflective of his or her normal personality. If the person becomes aggressive, or poses a danger to other people or to himself or herself, then mental health professionals may have to employ a psychiatric restraint. Examples of a psychiatric restraint include holding a patient down manually, giving the patient calming drugs, or securing the person with mechanical restraints such as wrist cuffs.
Psychiatric institutions deal with people who may have conditions that make their behavior unpredictable, or unusually aggressive or depressive. Generally, in most countries, the primary treatment for the patients involves psychiatric therapy and drugs. This combination of approaches can benefit some patients and help to keep them in a balanced state of mind. Sometimes, however, patients do not respond well to treatment, or experience lapses into uncontrollable behavior, and in these situations, the staff at the institution may have to resort to psychiatric restraint.
Typically, psychiatric restraint is only used when necessary to protect the patient and the people around the patient. For times when a person exhibits undesirable behavior that does not pose such a risk, the psychiatric staff may be able to handle the problem by talking to the patient or providing an activity to do. When a person becomes more excitable, aggressive or tries to hurt himself or herself, then the supervising staff may have to employ restraint methods when milder measures do not calm the patient.
Drugs are one form of psychiatric restraint, and some patients who are uncontrollable may receive injections of a medication to calm them. The staff may manually hold people down for a period of time until the undesirable mood has passed. Alternatively, the patient may be physically restrained with mechanical devices such as tying down wrists.
Generally, it is psychiatric nurses that make the decision to employ restraints on an individual. Whether a psychiatrist has to check the restraints and the patient can depend on individual countries and regulations. Possible reasons for restraint usage, apart from violent behavior, include refusal to comply with staff instructions, rejection of medication and attempted escape. The staff in these cases use the restraints in order to keep the psychiatric unit running smoothly, and keep the patient on track with medication.
Risks apply to each type of psychiatric restraint. Medications to soothe the patient or to make the patient less excitable have possible side effects, as do all drugs in general. People who undergo physical restraints may suffer injuries from being held down which may range from bruises to potentially lethal injuries such as suffocation. Mechanical restraints may also cause similar injuries, although typically, manufacturers design the restraints to be as safe as possible.