Coercive Measures and Stigmatization in the Psychiatric Medical Care

Petronela NECHITA, Liliana LUCA, Alina-Ioana VOINEA, Codrina MORARU, Mirona-Letiţia DOBRI


The involuntary commitment of psychiatric patients has been done for almost a decade under the Law 487/2002, the law of mental health and protection for people with psychiatric disorders. Frequent involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations have led to stigma attitudes and discriminatory acts towards patients with mental disorders. The coercive medical measures are applied in the psychiatric institutions of the mental health protection agencies. Coercion gives rise to serious ethical debates in the psychiatric assistance. The individual who was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital anticipates social rejection becoming defensive, withdraws socially, experiences a complex internal conflict.

The goal for this study is to illustrate aspects linked to coercive measures, mechanical restraint at involuntary admission of patients with mental illnesses in the psychiatric medical assistance.

Material and method: This study is a retrospective one, and the data was taken from the charts with involuntary admissions during the period of October 2002 to July 2012. The studied lot was comprised of 202 patients admitted involuntarily in a psychiatric hospital according to the Law 487/2002, the law of mental health and protection for people with psychiatric disorders.

Results: Of the 25.7% patients admitted involuntarily, that required coercive measures during admission, 58% were contained for symptoms like self-harm. The mechanical contention measures were especially necessary in the acute cases with symptoms as self-harm and/or harm of others, but also in situations with hallucinatory-delirium symptoms. The ratio of male sex subjects was significantly higher in the subject lot that needed coercive measures during hospitalization, of those admitted involuntarily (86.5% vs. 72%) (p = 0.036).

Conclusions: Involuntary admission and mandatory treatment remains in psychiatry a medical, legal and ethical problem. The required measures can lead mainly to clinical benefits, implying a paternal attitude from the psychiatry specialists by defying the patients’ autonomy. Treatment compliance is directly proportional to the overall level of functioning and inversely proportional to the level of self-stigmatization.


coercion; involuntary admission; stigma

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