Welcome to my weekly A-Z of Mental Illness. Each week I will be writing about a mental health topic that correlates with a letter of the alphabet. I have a few people doing guest posts along the way as well, just so you don’t have to listen to me drone on every week. I hope that through this alphabet of Mental Illness I will be able to spread a bit more awareness.
E is for Emergency Department.
The Emergency Department (ED) are the first line of support when someone is in a MH related crisis. They deal with suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, psychosis and self harm on a regular basis, yet most staff are untrained in how to deal with these situations. Many staff lack empathy and understanding about Mental Illness and what it means to be in a crisis.
In my experience with ED people who show symptoms of psychosis are treated as drug takers, putting it on because no ‘normal’ person believes there is a person living inside thier head. A person reaches out and the first port of call treats them like a criminal. They are locked in a room with no windows, stripped of their belongings and a emotionless security guard is placed outside the room to ensure no one is hurt. While this course of action is warranted in a patient who is violent and endangering the safety of other patients in the waiting room, this is not an appropriate reaction for a person who has just self harmed or attempted to take their own life. I already feel alone, alienated and hurt this action does nothing to lift this feeling.
I have walked into and ED, blood dripping down my arm and been treated worse than I ever was in prison. Self Harmers (SH) are treated as attention seeking, a drain on the staff who are there to treat the ‘real’ patients. Mental Illness and it’s manifestations are real, as is the pain suffered by the people experiencing them. A little compassion goes a long way. Stitching my wounds without aneasthetic, calling me stupid and generally treating me like dirt isn’t going to stop me. SH is not a switch that I can flick, I do not do it for shits and giggles. It is a coping mechanism, it happens when the emotions I struggle with are too much. I still struggle with the thoughts of SH every day.
I have been denied treatment for my physical health once a doctor has read my chart (volume 5 in my case) and it is glaringly obvious that I have ties with the MH service. My state of mind and MH history does not have an impact on my ability to determine where I am at with my physical health. I can tell the difference between anxiety and something more physical. Something that would have been glaringly obvious if they had actually listened to their patient.
The Emergency Department is the first port of call for many people in their Mental Health struggles. So why are these staff not better trained? Why are we still accepting sub par treatment of the Mentally Ill in our Emergency Departments?
Check out the rest of the posts here
Sorry to hear that you were treated so terribly when you needed it most. It is heartbreaking to think that is the norm rather than the exception. Thank you for sharing your story. This is the first I have heard about your A-Z off to read some more and look forward to next week
I hope that through people continuing to talk about it that we will see change at least for the next generation. I would hate to think of my son or one of his friends having to navigate the mindfield that I have. Thanks for commenting
I’m so sorry that you’ve had to experience that at the ED. I agree, staff should be better trained to help those suffering from a mental illness. Not everyone is a junkie and should be dismissed so easily.
It certainly makes sense to have staff better trained, both for their own safety in dealing with a psychotic patient and in the compassion of dealing with a suicidal one.
It shits me so bad to hear this. Some people are so insensitive. They can’t just keep judgments to themselves. Especially people in the ED. They are the ones who are supposed to be on your side to HELP you no matter the story.
So true Salz