Author: Bayley Levy
While struggling with any illness or medical struggle it is reassuring to feel that there is a place to go for help if things deteriorate beyond your ability to *handle it. This is a sense of comfort I have lost for my mental health. Over the past 3 months, I have been forced to face the reality of what the emergency room can provide for mental health crises – not a lot. Mental health crises fall on a spectrum and the level of distress will differ from person to person. However, it is important to acknowledge that one does not need to be acting on their plan to take their life to need immediate intervention.
I felt penalized for asking for help and made me think that I had to actually attempt suicide before anyone would take me seriously. The whole experience left me feeling like a lost cause and I wanted to take my life more walking out through the hospital doors.
The emergency room and admission to the psychiatric ward in the hospital are not designed to provide well-rounded care to promote recovery. It is a place solely designed to keep patients safe by creating a “no harm” environment and stabilizing using medication. Once a patient is safe to return to the community, they are discharged for outpatient care. The problem I have found with the current system is that treatment is one of two extremes: remain home and speaking with healthcare professionals every so often or getting to the point where one is so unsafe, they must be hospitalized.
We need to have more levels of care in between because so many people are falling through the cracks and not receiving the help they deserve and need. There have been so many nights where my suicidal ideation is so strong that it causes such distress, but I know that since I am not acting on it the hospital will just turn me away.
I want inpatient care that can provide the intensive treatment I need – the conjunction of medications and the hard work of therapy. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this exists or there is very low access to these types of treatment. The result is that I feel stuck in my options and so hopeless. A quote that perfectly describes how I feel is, “the only thing that scares me more than this killing me is living the rest of my life like this.”
I feel I have fallen through the cracks of the system as I am not “bad enough” to be admitted to the hospital ward but need more support than outpatient can provide. At a speaking event an audience member asked me, “where do you hope to see mental health treatment in 5 years?”
My answer is simple: more levels of care.
Mental health struggles are not all or nothing, so treatment options should not treat it that way. There are so many different avenues that can be discovered with mental health treatment, such as inpatient intensive therapy, outpatient day program intensive therapy, inpatient safety measures at all intensities, and so much more.
A person dies by suicide every 11 minutes, and about every 30 seconds a person attempts suicide.
While reading this article, 4 people have attempted to take their own life. It is time to change the treatment of mental health care to save the hundreds of thousands who die each year.
What are we going to do before it takes more lives?
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, this is a mental health emergency and you are deserving of help. Please click here for resources from CAMH.