By Ann Alty and Tom Mason.
Chapman and Hall
ISBN 0 412 55230 2
The seclusion of patients in psychiatric hospitals is a
contentious area, but few books have been written on this subject.
Alty and Mason have produced one which should at least provide a
focus for debate.
They bring together a range of research material, some of it
their own, and try to bring a degree of clarity to the subject.
The first chapter will be the most helpful for many readers. It
raises key issues and defines important terms as well as giving an
The remainder of the book relies heavily on material from
England, Wales and the USA. Readers in Scotland and Northern
Ireland may be disappointed, if not surprised, at the lack of
attention paid to the law and practice in their countries.
The 1959 Act is described as the ‘British Mental Health Act’.
However, issues are raised clearly and should provide a stimulus
for discussion in any country.
Other chapters cover the history of seclusion and aspects of its
use and abuse. The authors note that further research is needed
into the relationship between seclusion and race and gender.
The chapter on legal aspects and policy issues provides some
helpful background material. Unfor tunately the material on the law
in England and Wales is confusing and inaccurate.
Generally, Seclusion and Mental Health is well researched and
fully referenced. Despite the reservations which have been
expressed, it is likely to be seen as a helpful text by mental
health practitioners and those on educational courses.
Managers and advocates may need to look elsewhere for a clearer
focus on legal aspects but they should still find some helpful
Robert Brown is head of approved social work training
programmes in south London, Hampshire and south west England. He is
also a Mental Health Act Commissioner