Mental care patients increasingly kept in solitary confinement at 25% of clinics: Report

Mental Health Care
Mental Health Care. (Photo: lightsource/DepositPhotos)

Patients at a quarter of the mental health institutes in the Netherlands spent more time in solitary confinement in 2017 than in 2014, according to a study done by Investico for De Groene Amsterdammer and Trouw.

The researchers found that mental health patients throughout the Netherlands together spent 334 thousand hours in solitary confinement in 2017, a decrease of 9.3 percent compared to 2014. A quarter of the institutions had an increase in the number of hours patients spent separated from everyone else. Another quarter saw the hours spent in solitary confinement remain relatively stable. And the rest managed to decrease the time their patients spent in isolation. 

Investico's study was based on figures from care institute Zorginstituut Nederland of 21 clinics and from questioning 15 major mental healthcare institutions in the Netherland. Eleven of these institutions told the researchers that it is impossible to get rid of solitary confinement, the other four refused to respond.

The mental health institutions told the researchers that major staff shortages and a change in the type of patients they treat make stopping solitary confinement impossible. According to the clinics, more patients receive help at home, and this results in relatively more people with serious and complex problems ending up in the clinics. These patients often struggle with a combination of problems, such as drug addictions, psychoses, and aggression. Solitary confinement is inevitable for this group, according to the clinics. 

In June 2016, 14 mental health institutions signed the so-called Dolhuys Manifesto, promising to put an end to solitary confinement because "forced detention for patients is traumatic". Joris Hendriks, medical director and psychiatrist at GGZ Eindhoven, blames the fact that solitary confinement is still common on staff shortages in mental healthcare, which increased since the Dolhuys Manifesto was signed. "We have to be careful that we assess the safety risks properly", he said to Trouw. According to him, nobody puts patients in solitary confinement for the fun of it.

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