New restraint law is a fitting legacy for Seni Lewis

  • United States
  • 11/01/2018
  • The Guardian Law

That the mental health units (use of force) bill became law today is fantastic news for patients and staff in mental health units across the country. This legislation aims to reduce the widespread use of distressing and potentially dangerous restraint against both children and adults, which results in thousands of injuries every year and is linked to dozens of deaths.

Aside from the physical damage, it can also have a devastating impact on patients’ psychological wellbeing, retraumatising those who have experienced violence and abuse. The act, also known as Seni’s law after Seni Lewis, who died after being excessively restrained by police officers while a patient in a mental health hospital (Report, 7 February 2017), will improve accountability in mental health units.

Women and children, particularly girls, and people from black and minority ethnic groups, are at particular risk of restraint, and this law will help understand why this happens and guard against it.

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Among other key measures, it will ensure staff are given training on the impact of trauma on patients’ mental health as well as on de-escalation techniques, so that restraint is only ever used as a last resort. Ultimately, Seni’s law is a testament to the commitment of Seni’s family, who have fought tirelessly for years to bring about change, alongside his MP Steve Reed, who brought this bill to parliament.

We have been delighted to support them and this important piece of legislation, and will work to ensure it leaves the best possible legacy, so that mental health units are the caring, therapeutic environments they should be for all patients.

Jemima Olchawski
Chief executive, Agenda

Deborah Coles
Director, INQUEST

Paul Farmer
Chief executive, Mind

Emma Thomas
Chief executive, YoungMinds

Carolyne Willow
Director, Article 39

Mark Winstanley
CEO, Rethink Mental Illness

Ben Higgins
Chief executive, BILD

Mark Lever
Chief executive, NAS