Please Note: This is NOT medical advice. If you have medical (including mental health) concerns, please contact the appropriate healthcare providers. If needed, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. You can also visit their website to Chat with them and find resources.
Well, well, well… After a few months of chaos, I (finally) find myself back on the blog! Not that the chaos is over, but here I am anyway. Never a dull moment!
I realized I never followed up from where we “put a bookmark” in our conversation in the “Is the Psych Hospital Scary?” series. Since 2 posts (Part 1 and Part 2) barely made it a series, I’m back for Part 3, and I plan to keep adding to it as I’m able.
So, it’s pretty common knowledge here in the US that if you break a bone, you head to the nearest hospital’s emergency room (ER). If you have a heart attack, you go to the ER. If you have a stroke, you go to the ER. If you are bleeding badly, you go to the ER. Pretty much any life-threatening (or even wellness-threatening) situation warrants a trip to the ER. It can be very scary, but timing is everything. If you get to the ER in time, they can help you. They can keep you from bleeding out, perform surgery, or do whatever is possible and needed.
Why is it, then, that when someone is in a life-threatening situation centered around mental illness, the solution can be vague or unclear? I’m not trying to point any fingers. I’m right there with you. The first time I was in a life-threatening situation because of mental illness, I didn’t know what to do. The people around me didn’t know what to do.
What seems so clear with physical emergencies (“Go to the ER!”) becomes some sort of choice or predicament. The timing can be very unclear. Even now, I sometimes find myself questioning what I should do when I’m in a mental health crisis. I find myself putting off the inevitable of getting help until one of the last possible moments of safety, which can create an even scarier situation for myself and others involved.
Unfortunately, many people get to the psych ward after taking a very un-safe route, trying to take their own lives. They may have had a bit of a trip to get to the psych unit, taking a detour through the ICU or other similar places. What if we made it clearer that people could go to the psych hospital before they take unsafe action?
The thing is, everyone has a time before they attempt suicide. What if, instead of waiting until someone tries to take their own life, we get them help before that? What if people viewed help for mental illness as a necessity like they do for physical emergencies?
I’m not here to answer those questions. I really don’t know what that would look like, either. Over the past decade or so, I have seen hospitals and professionals take positive steps toward helping people to get the help they need. If we keep fine-tuning this help and working on our timing, hopefully the ER/psych hospital will be seen as just as necessary a step as it is for physical illness. When it is known and understood, it becomes less scary. It becomes a safe and helpful option for all who need it, when they need it.