I didn’t use A&E for mental health crisis for a long time. Unfortunately, the first time I went was after an attempt on my own life. Looking back on this, I realise I should have gone to A&E a lot sooner. I now go to A&E when I’ve used my crisis plan and it is not working for me. The staff at the hospital are always pleased to see me sooner rather than later.
Sometimes I’ve called 111 and they make an appointment for me to see a doctor at the hospital ASAP. I’ve also just walked into A&E on my own. They usually ask you what it’s for at the reception, which can be a bit awkward but don’t be afraid to say it’s for your mental health. If it is helpful, maybe write down the reason for coming into A&E on paper and give to them, or ask to go to a quiet area. They then ask for details like your address and number, and I only give what I feel comfortable saying.
I’ll then wait in waiting room until I’m seen by a nurse who will ask me about why I’ve come in. Sometimes it can feel like the questions are quite abrupt and I can also feel like I’m answering the same questions over and over again. I try to be understanding though and accept this is for their records. I will then usually wait in a room for a while to see a doctor or nurse to check me physically. They will then call their mental health team to have a chat with me.
There is a lot of waiting. It’s nice to be in an area surrounded by professionals so I feel a bit safer, but it also a very loud and busy environment. Sometimes I have also struggled being with my thoughts during the waiting period and I’ve found its best to tell someone about them. I’ve met some lovely staff at the hospital, and I’ve even cried over a cup of tea and a biscuit. However, since there are so many people working there, you may encounter the odd person who doesn’t quite understand. I think this is getting better with training and understanding though.
Eventually I am seen by the mental health team. They’re not always the most helpful, but I appreciate it when they call my GP to organise a next day appointment. I’ve also received some good self-help workbooks to focus on when I get home. Talking with the mental health team is a great opportunity to bring up what support is and is not working for you, and they can assess what might be best for you in that moment. As soon as I’ve spoken to the mental health team, I can go back home. I surround myself with friends and focus on my basic needs like eating and showering