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My experience in A&E

Thursday, 14 September 2017 Alicia

Alicia tells us about the experience she had with urgent care providers earlier this year.

Alicia is a mental health campaigner and determined runner.

The following contains discussion of suicide and self-harm. If you have experiences with this, you may find some of the content upsetting.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or think you might need help, please follow our urgent help instructions or get in touch with Samaritans.

It’s been roughly 2 months since I tried to end my life.  It almost sickens me to write this, but I feel like it’s something I have to do.  I have to share my experience of emergency mental health care because quite frankly, there is none. 

I know this is only my personal experience, but I also know that this will resonate with many of you out there, and it’s time we uncovered what really happens when someone attempts suicide, and what support is available afterwards. 

"We can’t keep letting people who need urgent help slip through the net."

Cries for help are continually going unheard and we’re losing too many goodhearted people to mental health issues.

The first thing people always ask is “why?” or “what happened?” The answer? Honestly there’s nothing I can say to justify or make you understand what led to this, I barely understand it myself. 

If it wasn’t for my best friend, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I can’t imagine what it was like for her to call the emergency services, especially as I was 80 miles away in a place which wasn’t at all familiar to me. She wasn’t panicked, she was calm and controlled and although she was so far away it felt like she was right by my side. 

"I can’t say anything negative at all about the police and paramedics who dealt with me, and I won’t forget the compassion they showed."

I felt absolutely ashamed of myself and as if I didn’t deserve their help, and yet they treated me with nothing but respect.  I wasn’t judged at all and at one point the paramedics even made me laugh - at a time when I had given up all hope, these strangers managed to shine a little glimmer of light into my life.

I wish I could say that I was treated with as much care when I reached the hospital, but unfortunately that wasn’t my experience.

I felt really anxious arriving at the hospital.  Everything was a blur I was sat down on a hospital bed for roughly 5 minutes before being moved to the waiting area in the emergency room.  None of the doctors really acknowledged me or told me what was going to happen.

So, I sat down, sobbing and all alone, and I waited.  Over the next 3 hours I was a complete ghost to everyone who rushed by. It was like I was invisible. No one made eye contact with me or dared ask if I was okay.

After 3 hours of complete distress the nurse said she was ready to take my blood - still in the waiting area. Despite me saying I wasn’t great with needles (and the fact I hadn’t eaten all day) she took my blood whilst I was sitting there and I passed out almost immediately.  I woke up completely confused as to where I was and with a sharp pain in my head as I had fallen straight onto my face. 

The doctors were stood around me, and I was abruptly told to stand up. With barely a word I was put on a bed just in time to see my Dad and Sister walk through the door.  After confirming that my blood tests were ok one of the doctors gave me a form to take to my GP, and said there was nothing they could really do to help me as I did not live in the area.  Basically, I wasn’t their responsibility.

This all this took place two months ago, and if you think that I have received any specific or beneficial aftercare, you’d be wrong.  Firstly it took 3 weeks before the mental health services contacted me after my GP referred me as urgent case. 

I had a full assessment, which I initially thought was quite positive.  I was told I would have my medication reviewed and changed, and although specific therapy wasn’t offered to me, I was at least given a number of somewhere that could possibly help. 

A week later I received a letter through the post saying that a Doctor had taken a look at my notes and judged that my medication was fine, and therefore my case was closed.  I wasn’t even angry; I found the whole situation almost laughable. 

I called the services immediately in absolute despair, explaining to them that this whole process and lack of support is the exact reason why so many lives are being lost; because the help we are promised doesn’t exist.  Imagine watching your mind gradually deteriorate, begging and crying out for help, only to be told nothing’s going to change.

So here I am today; still just about getting through each day and I can proudly say that it’s all down to my own determination and resilience, 99% of the time I want to live and I want to do amazing things with my life but 1% of the time I lose sight of things and I’m defeated by the awful thoughts in my mind.  I am proud to say that I am here now, and I hope all those who have been down a similar path know that they are true warriors in the battle for mental wellness.  

"The fight is relentless and it is inevitable that at times it will be overwhelming, but there is always a reason to keep going."

You are never more vulnerable than after a suicide attempt, ready to break apart at any moment. This is where we need to show real care and compassion without judgement; we need to remind everybody struggling with mental health problems that they are worthy and brilliant and the world is a better place with them in it.  I want people to feel that people care and that there is a way out of this. 

In my opinion, the mental health services are failing us, I refuse to sit back and watch, I’m going to do everything I can to change this because I’ve spent the last 9 years of my life fighting for me, and now it’s time to fight for all of us. 

The injustice I’ve experienced first-hand has ignited a fire deep within me to make a difference, and I won’t give up because that would mean giving up on all of you out there, and you more than deserve a chance at happiness.

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