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Trauma for all: a pilot study of the subjective experience of physical restraint for mental health inpatients and staff in the UK.

Violence and aggression is common in psychiatric inpatient units. Despite the near universal prevalence of restraint, there is very little published research on either the efficacy or the subjective effects of restraint on staff or patients. In this pilot study, semistructured interviews were given to the patients and staff involved in six untoward incidents in which the patient participant had been subject to manual physical restraint. Participants were interviewed as soon as possible after the occurrence of the incidents. The interviews asked the patient and staff participants to identify and discuss the factors that they found helpful and unhelpful during and in the immediate aftermath of these incidents. The incidents generated strong emotions for all concerned. The patients valued staff time and attention but felt that they received too little attention. Both nurses and patients discriminated between permanent and temporary staff. Patients reported feeling upset, distressed and ignored prior to the incidents and isolated and ashamed afterwards. Postincident debriefing was valued by all but was patchy for staff and rarer still for patients. Patients feared the possibility of being restrained. Half of the patients and several staff members reported that the incidents had reawakened distressing memories of previous traumatic events. Further research on the subjective effects of restraint is urgently needed.

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