In situations where you are clearly acting aggressively or posing a threat to yourself or to others, the medical personnel or policemen must try to calm you down verbally first. Forceful means may be used against you only if this fails. This may occur during your stay in the mental health care institution or when you are being escorted to the mental health care institution. The use of forceful measures must stop immediately when you have calmed down.

During escort

Whilst being escorted, the police are allowed to use physical force, special fighting techniques and special means (chemical substances, objects or mechanisms intended for self–protection or for ensuring public order and security, but which are not weapons). These means can only be used if, through your actions, you pose a danger to yourself or to others. When using special means or physical force, the police have to observe proportionality, i.e., they cannot use more force and special measures than are absolutely necessary for the prevention of the threat.

In each case, when physical force or special measures have been used, the police must write up a protocol, including the types of means used, why they were necessary, the time period for how long the restrictive measures were applied and the physical injuries (if any) sustained as a result of the use of special force.

Read about the possibility for complaining.

During stay

During your stay in a mental health care institution, the medical staff may use restrictive measures if there are direct threats that you may cause harm to yourself or others or if you show violence towards others. Those restrictive means include:

  • physical restraint — the use of physical force to restrain you
  • mechanical restraint — the use of restraining straps
  • medical restraint — the injection of drugs against your will; read more about medication
  • isolation — placement in a separate observation room

The decision to use restrictive measures must be made by a doctor and included in your medical documentation. In the decision, the doctor should explain the measures that were used, why they were necessary, the time period for how long the restrictive measures were applied and the physical injuries (if any) sustained as a result of the use of restrictive means.  

Read about the possibility for complaining.

What human rights violation may there be?

Inhumane or degrading treatment

The use of forceful means to control the aggression may result in a human rights violation if they are applied without a valid ground or excessively, i.e., more forcefully than necessary. It may result in inhumane or degrading treatment. 

But, not every situation will result in a violation of your human rights. The mistreatment must reach at least a minimum level of severity. When assessing whether you have been treated in an inhumane or degrading way, such things as the duration of the mistreatment, the physical and psychological effects, your age, gender and level of health would be taken into account. Read more about how to evaluate whether your rights have been violated.

Right to life

The use of excessive physical force may result in the death of the involuntarily placed person. If the police or medical personnel have used unnecessarily deadly force, it may result in a violation of the right to life. Read more about how to evaluate whether the right to life has been violated.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education