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The use of seclusion practices in mental health facilities is becoming less frequent and, when seclusion is used, episodes are shorter than in the past, according to new information released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The information released today in the Institute's report, Mental health services in Australia—in brief 2015, and on its Mental health services in Australia website, shows that the use of seclusion has fallen by an average of 10% per year over the last 5 years.

'Seclusion is defined as confinement, at any time of the day or night, alone in a room or area from which free exit is prevented,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

'Between 2010–11 and 2014–15, there was a fall in the national seclusion rate from 11.8 events per 1,000 bed days, to 7.8 events.'

Despite the overall fall, rates of seclusion use varied between the states and territories. Rates fell for 6 of the 8 states and territories, rising only in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

'Seclusion rates were highest in the Northern Territory, at 31 events per 1,000 bed days, and lowest in the Australian Capital Territory, at 2.7,' Mr Neideck said.

Today's release also shows that the average length of a seclusion event was 5.4 hours in 2014–15, down from 6 hours the previous year.

'Victoria had the longest average seclusion duration, at 8 hours, while the Australian Capital Territory had the shortest of 2.2 hours,' Mr Neideck said.

The use of seclusion also varied by remoteness, with Outer regional and Remote areas having the highest rate of seclusion (17.8 events per 1,000 bed days, combined), compared to 8 for Inner regional, and 7.2 for Major cities.

Nationally, seclusion rates were highest in child and adolescent services (12 events per 1,000 bed days), though these events were generally shorter, at an average of 1.6 hours.

Today's report and web release also describes the characteristics of Australia's mental health facilities, specific mental health services, and the mental health workforce.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 16 December

For further information on seclusion data: Geoff Neideck, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1163, mob. 0439 878 933 

For general information about seclusion practices in Australia: Assoc. Prof. John Allan, Chair of the Safety & Quality Partnership Standing Committee, tel. (07) 3328 9061 

Full publication: Mental health services in Australia—in brief 2015

Website updates:  https://mhsa.aihw.gov.au