Treatment and Care

When presenting to the emergency department (ED) with a mental health related concern, a person’s response at triage and to staff attempts to provide support and treatment may be shaped by the way they experience or perceive the mental health care being provided.

The people we spoke to described how their interactions with staff throughout their time in the ED can be shaped by the way initial assessment questions are asked. They explained that they can sometimes be confused about where they are and frightened by what is happening to them. Some people reported finding it challenging to communicate with staff about what they are experiencing. A person may also feel self-conscious talking about their distress in front of family members or friends who have accompanied them. It can help a person to feel safe when ED staff invite people to talk about what they are experiencing as they understand it in their own words or offer a more private space for these conversations.

People also explained how it can be confusing and distressing when treatment decisions are made without their input or are not communicated appropriately. Perceived inconsistencies in the way mental health concerns are approached and responded to within the emergency department can leave people feeling unsure about where they should go when in crisis. Talking through possible treatment options and taking the time to respond to a person’s concerns can help staff to reassure them they will receive the care and support they need to feel safe.

Key points

  • A person’s experience at triage and with initial assessment can shape subsequent interactions with staff in the ED and how they respond to the environment.
  • Even where a person appears to be confused or frightened about what is happening, it can help them to feel safe when staff find a way to talk with them about what they are experiencing and describe how they will try to help them.
  • Clearly communicating what treatment decisions are being made and explaining why can ensure that people are aware of what their rights are regarding treatment and care.
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