Crisis care: when trust is broken
Posted Monday 21 November 2011
As part of our crisis care campaign, Nikki writes about two very different experiences and asks what patients should do when they're not treated with support and respect.
Looking at me you would probably never guess that I have a mental health problem.
Yet I have suffered from mental ill health on and off since I was a teenager, experiencing wonderfully high and productive periods but then crashing into the depths of despair where suicide seemed to be the only way out.
Outside of these times, I was fairly normal - depending on your definition or ‘normal’!
I was referred to a psychiatrist and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder and I now take mood stabilising medication to treat this.
I also receive excellent care from my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) and my counsellor, both of whom I see every week.
These measures help to keep me stable so I can live my life, so that I can be a good wife and mother, and so that I am effective at work.
As I got older, the depressive episodes became much worse and lasted longer each time. The last three years have been incredibly difficult and I have experienced an exhausting rollercoaster of highs and lows.
During the depressive episodes I have been actively suicidal and I needed the extra support provided by my local crisis team.
My initial involvement with the crisis team was extremely positive. They were supportive and non-judgemental and helped me through a very difficult period.
I was referred back to the team six months later when my mood had dropped once again but this episode became much worse and I was admitted to hospital by the crisis team.
Once at the hospital I tried to discharge myself and was detained under the Mental Health Act. When I was discharged from hospital I wasn’t quite ready to go home and was admitted into a crisis house instead.
The staff at the crisis house couldn’t have been more helpful and there was always someone there to listen when I needed to talk. They also encouraged me to go outside and to help with household tasks to prepare me for going home.
Unfortunately, I became ill again over last Christmas. As my previous experiences of involvement with the crisis team had been so positive I didn’t hesitate when their help and support was offered to me again.
This time however, the care I received fell way short of what it should have been.
I was extremely distressed and self harming to the point where I needed treatment in A&E. I was suicidal and my behaviour was way beyond my control.
I was going missing but couldn’t remember where I had been and my family were extremely concerned about me.
At that point there was still some rational part of my brain that was working and it was telling me I needed help so I called the crisis team as agreed in my crisis plan.
They too were concerned and they sent the police to my house and kept me talking on the phone until the police arrived (I had no idea the police had been called).
Once the police arrived they quickly took over and made sure my children were OK and looked after and then took me to hospital.
I have no doubt that this was the right action to take, but once I got to hospital things changed dramatically.
On arrival I was interviewed by two members of the crisis team. I was shouted at, and told I was wasting police time. One of them told me that if their mum was being burgled whilst the police were dealing with me they would be furious!
I was also accused of being manipulative and references were made to my sex life with my husband. I was already suicidal when I arrived at the hospital and this treatment only served to compound those feelings.
I was then given a choice - either go home or have the police take me to the police station where I would be put in a cell to wait for a Mental Health Act assessment.
This was a no brainer, who wants to be put in a cell?! So I agreed to go home, and was sent there in a taxi. Only I didn’t go home, I asked the taxi to stop somewhere else so that I cut myself some more….
By the time I got home I was exhausted so went to bed. The next day my husband decided I was no longer able to care for myself and that it was no longer safe for me to be at home so he called the crisis team and had me admitted to hospital.
His actions saved my life. I don’t remember the first three days in hospital, I think I was too distressed and traumatised by that stage. But the hospital staff were amazing, and I credit them with how quickly I began to recover.
Their professionalism was never in question and they were incredibly supportive to both me and my family.
After a lot of consideration, I made an official complaint regarding the treatment I had received from the crisis team.
They denied shouting at me but they did concede that they should have dealt with the situation with much more sensitivity than they did and they apologised.
I would have preferred a personal apology from the staff involved but was told this wasn’t possible.
This has left me with quite a dilemma. I no longer trust the crisis team and would probably refuse to have their involvement during any future periods of mental ill health.
Unfortunately, there isn’t really any alternative so I worry about what would happen if I become ill again. I just hope and pray that I don’t.
Excellent crisis care exists, but we need it everywhere, for everyone. Support our campaign, take action now.
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