The Problem with the ER

“I will never again ask for help from anyone for my mental health. Especially in an Emergency Room.” – the patient kept anonymous

I don’t blame this person for their feelings. Honestly, I’m feeling the same way after a dozenth failed experience in the ER last week. And the bits of conversation I couldn’t help but overhear that happened in the rooms next to me leave me no choice but to draw the conclusion for myself that being treated for psychiatric emergencies is a negative experience. But even without my experiences, the statistics are out there.

Over a year ago there were a couple great articles circulating about the disappointing experiences psych patients have when they’re taken to the ER. According to statistics, 2 out of 5 people going to the emergency room for a psychiatric reason rated their experience as “Bad” or “Very Bad”

Last week when I was in the ER, I decided to document my stay, adding my “bad” to the list. At the end of the day, it was just about as bad as I expected, leaving me feeling even more worthless than when I went in.

12:38- I get here and check in. The immediately admit me to a room. The nurse asks 2 questions (“what brings you in today?” and “When did you last take your meds?”) And leaves.

1:34- registration comes in and verifies my address. They ask if I want a nurse to call me in a few days to check up on me. I say yes but I know they won’t. In over 20 ER visits they never have.

1:46- a lady comes in to draw my blood. She stuck me twice in my elbow pit and fishes for a vein. She can’t get it so she tries my hand. She asks me if I’ve been eating and drinking, and I say no. She continue to fish. My anxiety is so bad at this point I start crying. She takes the needle out roughly and snaps “that’s it, I’m done.” And leaves, leaving all of the blood drawing stuff in my room.

2:07- a different tech comes to draw my blood. He doesn’t say a word to me. He moves my arm around and it hurts me. I even cried out from the pain. I don’t like watching the needle so I look away. I wait, but nothing seems to happen after the needle goes in. I ask him if it’s working. He says nothing. Finally the blood is drawn. I ask him if he can use the wrap instead of the tape. He heaves a huge sigh and obliges. Then he leaves the room without saying anything, despite my apology and my thank you. He didn’t say a word the whole time.

3:55- nothing’s happened since then. No one’s talked to me, no one’s even looked in the room. I’ve now watched almost two movies.

4:17- my new nurse (shift change) comes it to put the rail up on my bed. I tell her how long I’ve been waiting and she laughs and leaves.

4:54- I talk with my boyfriend about how I’ve been treated and how I’m feeling. He’s just as upset as I am. It’s nice to be validated and listened to. Too bad the people who I’m paying to take care of me and listen to me aren’t. So far I’ve paid $100 to just watch movies in an uncomfortable gown for 5 hours.

5:41- Am I even human anymore?

6:42- psych finally comes and talks to me. It goes about as expected. Wanting to know my history, not trusting me when I say I have a safety plan and refuse to let me show them it.

7:17- the social worker comes and talks me about my options since I do not want to be admitted and conitue this ridiculous charade upstairs in a room with 4 white walls. My options basically consist of going home and waiting a week for my regularly scheduled therapy appointment.

8:38- a nice police officer comes to talk to me and take me home. No call to my therapist, no call to my psychologist, no contact with any mental health ANYTHING. The only call made for me was made by the police officer to the officer who mainly helps with mental health issues. The hospital made zero calls or effort to get me any sort of help.

9:05- the officer notices I’m a little faint and I tell her I haven’t eaten in three days. The officer immediately tries to communicate her concern for my lack of eating to the nurses but no one listens or cares… surprise surprise. The officer even offers to get me something at the grocery store or go through a drive thru on the way home. I wish I could say yes but I’m not in the mental headspace where I can eat.

10:00- I finally get discharged.

10:20- I arrive back home. The police come in to help take safety measures.

10:38- I’m finally at home and on my own. Shitty adventure over.

Not a very encouraging experience. When I was talking to the nurse that ultimately sent me to the ER this time around,  I told her I HATED going to the ER because it made me feel completely worthless because you lay there unseen for a shit ton of hour. She said she’d call ahead to see if she could help that. After this experience, I too am very resistant to the idea of ever returning to the ER.

Now, let’s compare to an experience with a physical issue. A few weeks ago, A friend of mine posted this on Facebook:


(posted with permission)


It was a physical issue, not mental. She was waiting for 5 hours until she got her own room, and was not released until 10 1/2 hours later. Most of that time was simply waiting. Many commenters were upset, some even suggesting registering a complaint. Now, I am in no way trying to minimize or take away from her experience. It truly is upsetting, But what does that say of our ER treatment teams when a ridiculously long wait is seen as mistreatment in one area, yet perfectly normal in another? I myself have been transferred to different rooms because they needed the room for someone the room was “designed for” (aka someone who will actually use the IV line or monitors), and sometimes I’ve even been left in the hallway. Including the time I was genuinely hurt from a suicide attempt and in a cervical collar… it didn’t matter. I was moved into the hallway to wait for my MRI so a patient without mental health needs could use the room I was in.

It’s been almost a week since my last visit to the ER, and to be honest, nothing has changed (except I’m $100 more in debt from that darn ER trip). That’s probably because they did absolutely nothing to help me. I’m struggling with the same thoughts, my eating hasn’t changed, and it’s getting harder every night to take my medication. But the bitter taste left in my mouth after being straight up ignored and laughed at leaves me very resistant to the idea of returning to the ER for psychiatric reasons anytime soon. I also feel less than enthusiastic about sharing what I’m going through out of fear of being blown off. I’ve got a sour taste in my mouth, and I don’t know how long it’ll last.

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