A Band-Aid covers a Bullet Hole
The reality of Mental Health crisis in emergency rooms.
One in Five Canadians will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lifetime, so why is it that average “wait times for outpatient services are six to nine months”?(CBC News, 2015). Mental Illness is a common, yet often unacknowledged reality for many individuals; it’s imperative that medical concerns are treated quickly and efficiently no matter what the concern is. However most Canadians struggling with mental health issues, do not have that quick and efficient treatment for something that could potentially be unnoticeably life threatening. Despite there having been “a 30-per-cent jump from the same month the previous year.” (CBC News, 2011) in ER visits at one hospital alone.
The gap between the time when someone is referred to a Mental Health Service, and them actually receiving the treatment they require, leaves far too much time for that person’s mental health to deteriorate. “CHEO has seen an average of 75% increase in the number of mental health related visits to its emergency room” (CBC News, 2015). An emergency room should be a last resort, it is clear however, due to the extended wait between reaching out for help, and receiving help Canadians are left without any other resources, leaving them feeling helpless during crisis.
By the time someone does finally receive the care they’re waiting for, it’s not uncommon for someone to be prematurely discharged in order to make room for someone else on the wait list. If someone is forced to wait for a treatment of any kind, they should receive the best possible care once that treatment becomes available, but “Kortsee also worries that some children may be discharged before they are fully well to make room for other children”(CBC News, 2011). This often leaving them with a temporary fix, rather than the proper coping mechanisms and support that they require to make a full recovery. This just leaves them more likely to end up back on a wait list.
In reality, the worst place for someone in crisis to be is an ER. They’re loud, they’re busy, and they can be a very stressful environment for someone who is actively in crisis. But sometimes that can be your only option left. When you’re stuck on a wait list to see a psychiatrist, or waiting to be admitted to a residential or inpatient treatment center, sometimes you don’t have the resources to help a loved one or yourself through a crisis. In that case, the ER is the place to be, though, “95 per cent of patients in mental distress who got admitted to Guelph General Hospital's emergency room on a Saturday were still there Monday”(Ferrier, 2016). Why is it acceptable to keep someone in crisis,in a busy ER for 2 days? But leaving someone with a heart attack in the ER is unacceptable?
In summary, an average of a six to nine month wait time for a mental health service is undoubtedly unacceptable. There’s no reason that a person should watch their mental health deteriorate while waiting for help, or why they shouldn’t have any resources to assist them through crisis’ during that waiting period. Everyone is entitled to prompt medical care, why is this any different?
I wrote this a couple years ago for a high school paper, but it’s frightening how correct it still stands today. This is still a significant issue for patients looking for help in the mental health sector. But please, don’t let this paper prevent you from reaching out for support, there’s no shame in needing help, and mental health issues don’t make you weak, just human.
Please remember to also keep a watch out for friends and family, warning signs of suicide are almost always present before an attempt, and recognizing one symptom could be the difference between life & death for someone you love.
You are important, and I’m so glad that you’re here to be reading this. You deserve happiness! Love & Light ❤️