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Protest behaviors among patients placed in seclusion in a psychiatric emergency service.

BACKGROUND: Patients placed in seclusion for behavioral dyscontrol often perceive that the health care team is treating them inappropriately. These patients may express their indignation in many ways. To better characterize these behaviors, we conducted a study of protest behaviors in a psychiatric emergency service.

METHODS: Video surveillance of seclusion room occupants is routinely reviewed as part of our safety protocol. For 1 month in 2022, we noted the frequency and timing of potential protest behaviors such as disrobing and evacuation. Descriptive statistics were applied.

RESULTS: A total of 41 seclusion events (8.1%) occurred over the surveillance period, which included 504 initial emergency psychiatric evaluations. Six patients (14.6%) engaged in protest behaviors (all within 5 minutes of being placed in seclusion), including 3 (7.3%) who urinated and 3 (7.3%) who disrobed. One patient urinated almost immediately (2.4%), and another urinated 25 minutes after entering seclusion; the latter was not interpreted as a protest behavior.

CONCLUSIONS: Immediate behaviors in seclusion that are different from behaviors that led to seclusion can be interpreted as protest behaviors. The 2 most often observed protest behaviors were urination and disrobing.

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