Tips for Your Psych ER Visit
What you need to know before making the decision to seek an evaluation
Before I begin, please understand that you should not hesitate to seek emergency care if you are having a mental health crisis. This is a checklist of a couple of things you should be aware of not if, but when you get the help you deserve.
I’ll never forget my first trip to a psych ER. On a terrifying day where I was obsessively fixated on ideas about self-harm, getting help as quickly as possible seemed like the right thing to do. Today, I feel secure knowing that I saved myself from my own devices.
My only regret about the situation was that I was quite unprepared for what was to come. By the time you’re finished with this article, you’ll be ready to handle psychiatric emergencies either for yourself or your loved ones by knowing exactly what to expect.
Know your rights
Have you revealed a self-inflicted injury? Did you tell the nurse that you were experiencing a symptom of a mental health emergency? Were you very depressed and afraid to be alone but never had a plan for harming yourself?
When I was a minor, I went to the emergency room and after painting a picture of being a danger to myself, I was not allowed to leave. When my mother came to the hospital to get me, she was outraged when told that I was still not allowed to leave. She tried assuring the staff that she’d keep a close eye on me, but it wasn’t enough for them.
Once you surrender yourself to patient care, the hospital is liable for your well-being. It is now their job to assess what kind of help you need and actively take steps to ensure that you get it. They are legally obligated to care about making sure you’re safe.
Have a plan for staying in contact with the outside world
One of the first things that will happen when you go to the psychiatric emergency room is that you will either be told that phone use is prohibited and/or outright have your communication devices taken away.
Make sure that you have any contact information you may need written on paper if you don’t have it memorized.
Additionally, I strongly suggest letting someone you trust know where you’re going. If you make the trip alone and don’t tell anyone first, it may be impossible to access a phone for many hours.
Remember to keep your priorities in check
I’ve lied to healthcare professionals more than once because I was terrified of what was to come. The stinky clinic smells and blanched fluorescent lighting scared me so much that I convinced myself that going to the emergency room was a bad call and that I’d be much better off at home.
I know now that going back home would be going back to square one and I never would have received the medications or therapies that have changed my life by making happiness accessible to me. It sounds crazy, but if I never took myself to the ER during my emergency almost five years ago, my whole life today would be different.
In a sad attempt to negotiate after being told I couldn’t leave the hospital, I tried to put on a show to emphasize how sane I was. This got me nowhere and ultimately led to a longer stay.
Expect to be treated like you’re already a patient
The hospital staff isn’t going to let you stay in your own clothes. You’ll be donning a gown while professionals probe and assess your mind.
Remember that no one is trying to hold you hostage or patronize you. They’re genuinely trying to help. Once again, they’re liable, and keeping you safe is critical.
Being treated like a patient can feel degrading, but if you keep in mind that it’s only temporary and that you are just one of thousands of people this hospital has seen, you’ll be empowered by the decision not to take things personally.
Emergency care isn’t known to be very personable because of the volume of patients that are seen. Soon enough, you’ll be evaluated and on to better care.
Follow through and follow up
Just because everything feels fine now that you’ve been discharged doesn’t mean that you should move on like nothing happened.
Maybe you really are fine, but you weren’t fine before. Don’t pretend that your hospital visit was a freak accident. Be open with your mental health professionals and if you weren’t seeking care before, create a team that you can rely on during your next moment of need.
It may take a very long time to get back on track, but addressing these needs will improve your whole life.
I know that this is a scary time for you. No matter where you are in the process of getting help, I am 100% confident that you will get through this. Keep your head held high and remember who you are. Have conviction in getting help, and be proud that you’re strong enough to own up to the fact that you aren’t okay.
Better times are coming for you.